Rev: Hey you’re with the Rev of Too Metal For Church, Metal Nation Radio and I am sitting with Hansi Kursch lead singer and founding father of the awesome Blind Guardian, How you doing Hansi?
Hansi: Not too bad, how are you?
R: Excellent, but wet, it’s raining out there man!
H: I like that!
R: So, the last time we chatted was on 70000 tons of metal in 2015, awesome that you remembered that and that was just ahead of the release of Beyond The Red Mirror. Now we’re about 18 months beyond the release of the album and I’d like to get your thoughts on how it was received and how it did, how the band feels about it and so on… and the whole difficult music business kind of thing with albums not selling necessarily and all that kind of stuff – what are your thoughts on that?
H: Starting this way, we still cannot complain, we’re doing well and the album has sold very well but there is a difference of course, the digital world has changed a lot of things and I believe for some people, for some bands the struggle becomes harder that’s for sure. We have established a brand with Blind Guardian so people know what they are getting even though we’re developing constantly and this has been the case with Beyond the Red Mirror again, I have the impression that it’s grown on some people but from the beginning the response has been very strong and people appreciate the fact that we do not repeat what we have done in the past, we try to find new ways.
R: You guys have been touring kinda relentlessly behind the album, let me ask you, what are some of your best memories of touring Beyond the Red Mirror – venues, countries perhaps, bands that you’ve toured with, I know you’ve toured with Grave Digger an awful lot
H: Funny, we just had a similar question when I did an interview together with Andre (a few) days ago and he said 70,000 Tons of Metal was one of his most important moments of this touring cycle even though that was before the Red Mirror has been released we consider it still a part of the actual touring and it was his peak point so far. Mine would have been probably Wacken, the show we played two days ago because it was the biggest one we’ve played for a while, it was 70,000 people going nuts when we played, we had a headlining position on Friday and we got the whole crowd and this barely happens. Even if the Wacken audience is very loyal and very friendly to all bands playing there, this has been (an) extraordinary reaction that we got there. The North American part of the tour has been great especially because we have been around with our friends from Grave Digger (who are) on the road as long as we are if not a little longer and there are not a lot of bands being on the road longer that we are. I think the response has been great everywhere but especially here in Montreal we have seen one of the best shows of the whole touring cycle. And it’s always great for us to have a home game, we come from Western German and our main show in Germany would be the one in Düsseldorf and that certainly has been another peak of this touring cycle.
R: Talking about Grave Digger, we, Metal Nation Radio, had a chance to sit down with both Chris and Axel for interviews at 70,000 Tons back on that cruise, awesome guys, got to shoot their shows as well as yours of course – I’m really looking forward to seeing you in the fall with Grave Digger you’re going to be at London Ontario which would be closest show to me. There’s no Toronto show on that bill.
H: Ya the idea was to have a second leg and different cities as well and since Toronto has been one of the most successful shows on the last tour the promoter was looking for a place not too far away from Toronto.
R: On this next tour in the fall with Grave Digger you’re going to be doing Imaginations From The Other Side in its entirety from what I read and this seems to be a real trend in metal and music and you see bands coming out and performing classic albums or they’re doing an evening with, I think Machine Head for example did one, Dream Theater too, no opening band, an intermission – but clearly you’re not doing that, you’ll be with Grave Digger. What led to the decision to come out and tour Imaginations in its entirety?
H: Mainly it’s the second leg of this touring cycle we have never done two sets of touring in North America and while we have deliver most of the songs during our first appearance we’re talking about with ones can we play that the people haven’t heard, so they get as much different songs from what they have listened to last time and at a certain point Andre came up with the idea to play Imaginations and I like the idea because from the conceptual albums and from the albums which would have the quality to fill the whole evening, Imaginations is the easiest to perform and still even though if you played it in its entirety it delivers the live atmosphere while an album like Beyond the Red Mirror or Nightfall in Middle Earth they would be too theatrical and steal a little bit away from the regular live atmosphere which is essential for Blind Guardian, we depend on the interaction with the audience which disappears a little bit if you do something like that, it doesn’t matter too much for a Dream Theater, if you’re really doing progressive stuff where the people want to listen, we needed something which fits both sides and Imaginations is the perfect album for that and as I said it’s far easier to perform than any of the other albums.
R: Would you consider Imaginations to be your top album in the history of the band in terms of fan response? I happen to own all of your albums and have since the ’80’s and that’s one of my favourites in the entire collection
H: Welcome to the club I would say. It’s disscusable a little bit. I would say it’s in the top 3 of the Blind Guardian (catalogue) and I know we did some polls and whatever and you can see Nightfall in Middle Earth is still the favourite Bling Guardian album and mine as well but talking to other band members they would say no, still Imaginations is my favourite album. I’d say it belongs to the top three – definitely not incorrect if I say so, for myself there are other albums that I like a little more but it has a strong standing amongst new and old Blind Guardian fans.
R: You’re going out with Grave Digger again – Is there a special relationship between Blind guardian and Grave digger? You’re both from Germany of course…
H: We’re even from the same area, there are a lot of bands coming from this area, Rage, Kreator, BG, Sodom, it’s all the same area – we have a strong connection since.
R: Chris certainly has different vocal style than you do,
H: That’s human.
R: I would characterize their music, and not in an insulting way to say this but maybe a little simpler than Blind Guardian, more straight forward.
H: Definitely. Sometimes people consider us to be power metal and I’m not sure about it, but it’s not because I don’t think we are not powerful but also more about the definition of power metal in general. In Grave Digger’s way it’s a little bit easier, pure traditional metal and that fits totally in their case, now in our case it’s a little more difficult but we’re still a metal band so ya there are differences also in the way they lay out their music but at the very end, intensity and the ideology is the same
R: So does the band have any plans for new recording?
H: We do have the orchestral album on the agenda and that is what we are working on whenever we come home and my big goal is to accomplish that during the next year and maybe releasing it in 2018, the end of 2018 – before that we’re going to release a live album which is schedule for the first half of 2017.
R: One final question Hansi, and I really appreciate your time. with a band of your pedigree you’ve been through the music industry and phenomenal changes – of course when you started there was no internet, there was nobody stealing your music from torrent sites or whatever, does that make it more difficult to make a decision to create new art or is it important as an artist to get it out there regardless of whether or not there are business ramifications if you follow my meaning?
H: It is important to get it out, no matter how. It makes life more difficult for sure. You’re right, the last 5 years have brought the biggest changes at least in my career. We were able to adapt our problems ever since the middle of the 80s and you know there were problems and record companies complaining about smaller markets and this and that and that and that – we never felt it because our way was like this, and now it’s slowing down, I can see that already and that’s not because of the quality of music but because, as you said, about streaming, and all the stuff and now legally they get it for fee
R: The business model has completely changed and the industry hasn’t caught up to a way that can monetize your art.
H: It is very difficult for them as well but what can I say? We will adapt to that and no matter how we are going to release new albums and try to be quality wise as good in the past but it has become an issue that’s for sure and I have no idea how to adapt to it nowadays. In earlier days I would have said, well, we take our five years in between each album, nowadays I say we have to be quicker because the market changes so fast and so drastic. Let hope that we still bring this output out before no one buys albums any more.
R: Well Hansi, I want to thank you for your time and for being Too Metal for Church with Reverend Rock!
H: Great fun!
Concert photos provided by and used with permission of Evenko
Interview photos by Teemu Lavikka
Reverend Rock is host of Too Metal for Church, Monday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. exclusively on Metal Nation Radio