Before German power metal legends Blind Guardian hit the stage for their only UK date on their current European tour, eGigs is afforded a precious ten minutes with vocalist HansiKürsch who offers a meandering conversation on new album 'Beyond the Red Mirror', how it slots in among Kürsch's own favourite Blind Guardian albums and the growing UK power metal collective.
How are you?
I'm fine, still alive.
How has the first few dates been on the tour so far?
Exciting. It's the beginning, it's always the same. When things start rolling, everyone is still nervous, there's a fresh feeling and everyone's in a good mood. This is going to change later on because we get tired of each other but this is a family gathering or a class gathering when you get together with your friends and everyone is enjoying the day and you have to get on stage. The people are excited and you still have the energy to supply something. I would say these first two real shows we have played have been very well and we're looking forward to it tonight.
Excellent. Many people are looking forward to hearing songs from 'Beyond the Red Mirror'.It's the best album you've done in a while.
Thank you very much. I personally rate it album number two. It has the potential to become my number one. I can't say that right now.
What's it in competition with?
'Nightfall in Middle Earth' is my favourite album and 'Imaginations from the Other Side' and 'Beyond the Red Mirror' are very strong. I like the technical aspects of the last three albums so 'At the Edge of Time' would be in my top four as well. These four are the strongest ones, still, 'Nightfall…' is a little ahead. From 'Beyond the Red Mirror', we'll play some songs. It's still difficult stuff to be delivered in a stage situation. We managed to work out four songs properly, at least how we feel. They sound a little different. Today, four songs should be enough. We're working on a fifth song but that might take another six to eight weeks before we play that. Apart from that, it would be classical stuff. We're stretching all albums apart from 'A Night at the Opera'. That's the most difficult one to play. We are working on 'Battlefields' and I can tell you; we had six weeks of rehearsals and we're still at a point where we're not confident it's a good idea to play tonight. We may play it when we're on the road in another few weeks and then it might be an option but not tonight unfortunately.
Is that harder to play than 'And Then There Was Silence'?
Much harder. Performance-wise, there are some ranges in the song. There are…how many changes that you will hopefully not recognise when you listen to the album. To accomplish them on stage is very difficult and to keep the energy that we delivered on the album…I mean, it's very high pitched singing. I would not be able to do so, so we have to find different ways to feature the song in the best possible way. As I say, we're in a good way but we we're not there; we have to pay justice to it. I'm surprised that we at least so far because we have written it some years ago already. During the preparation for, I think it was 'A Twist in the Myth', we said it was unplayable and there was no chance to get that in an organic way but now we are a little further and I'm sure it will be heard in Europe and hopefully we'll come back to the UK or at least festivals next year. Bloodstock would be great.
You did a great job when you were there in 2009.
It was an enjoyable event.
There were a lot of people who went on the strength of you. Cradle of Filth were playing after you and they're an English band but you still pulled in a bigger crowd.
It's different music. It's good for us to have such a base here. It took a while. If you look at it in the strongest era of the band in the late '90s, there was a small buzz starting to happen here in the UK but before that, we were just known to a very small amount of people. It was probably based on the fact that the record company Virgin back then refused to release the album because they thought that metal was dead and so they didn't do it. There was no chance to get a licencing deal because there was a strict policy with Virgin. That changed in the late '90s when we got a deal with Century Media at least for the US first and then the UK as well and ever since, the UK is still an upcoming market for us.
In 2006, you played the KOKO and that only holds around 1,000 people. Now you're playing The Forum, a way bigger venue.
That was a great show. And yeah, it is progression. In some countries, there's stagnation where you play in front of 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 people but it doesn't change. Two days ago, we played in Holland and it was exactly the same amount of people who were coming there. The scene is growing here; that's obvious to me.
And very recently too, in the past six or seven years there seems to be more of an explosion.
It's interesting to see because it's a contrast to what's going on in many other countries where there's a strong decrease being recognised. Metal has a strong core always but in some countries, it used to be a fashion for a while and that's going down a little bit but it has changed. Here, it's the opposite. It was difficult in the '90s where there only was a core fanship here and now new people come in and they discover the music. Maybe there are some new UK bands…
Not so many! Not at least bigger ones.
Not so many? Oh, okay.
I think the UK is quite cynical when it comes to rock and metal music, to be honest.
How would you say 'Beyond the Red Mirror' compares orcontrasts to previous Blind Guardian albums?
Compared to the last three albums, I would say it is a more consequent album and even the delivery of the musical expression and the intensity is something we mingled. On any of the albums - be it 'Night at the Opera', 'A Twist in the Myth' or even 'At the Edge of Time' -this is where it differs from this album because they are a very consequent set up of songs and they are designed very technically but the output is very organic and this makes it probably the strongest progression in terms of music and direction we have taken. In comparison to what we have done in the '90s and '80s, it's definitely more on the progressive side. There is no doubt in the '80s we were more power metal/speed metal – some would say power metal, I would say speed metal band – but that doesn't add up to much. It definitely was more down-to-earth. Now everything has that larger-than-life attitude but in a positive way, in a doable way. I think this is something people appreciate in 'A Night at the Opera', which is an amazing album but it's so complex and so difficult to attach and grab and this one is a little more mainstream-ish, if I say so.
Where did the band pick up these progressive influences from? Are they from, say, '70s prog rock or heavier prog metal bands?
It's an organic development, I have to say. It's not really that we kept our focus on the '70s bands. This is more on the musical and choral part – this is certainly inspired by '70s music but the progression in the core music just came in. There's some '80s influence, it's natural. It's what we experienced over the last twenty years. It's what we like to listen to be it U2, Linkin Park or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, it doesn't matter. It all had a certain influence but there's no main influence to say which made us move into that direction. It came naturally.
Time's up already! Do you have any final words?
Yeah, enjoy the show tonight and whoever missed it, bad luck! I hope we come back for more shows, I don't know, on a club basis or at least play a few festivals.
Thank you very much for your time.