Singing Out Loud
CoC talks to Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian
by: Adrian Bromley
Making that perfect album is not always a lot of fun. Just ask Blind Guardian singer/bassist Hansi Kursch how he and the rest of his band spent twelve months in the studio working on their latest magical opus _A Night at the Opera_ and you'll be sure to get a lot of groans and moans from the usually upbeat frontman.

"Making this record was frustrating at times. It makes me nervous when things take too long. I was doing four months of singing and it was just becoming this long routine of each day singing all of these parts. It was driving me nuts", Blind Guardian's frontman blurts out over the phone. "Charlie [Bauerfeind, producer] demanded a lot of really intense vocals at times and it is much higher than anything I have had to sing before. It was very complicated to get all of this going on the right path and it was just taking so long. I was disappointed that we weren't able to keep the schedule that we had set for this album, but all of us in the band [guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen and drummer Thomas Stauch -- Adrian] knew that we had to take as much time to make sure this album came together smoothly or we'd be dealing with a giant mess."

"We felt confident with the music itself and that it would justify the extended recording period that we did with this album, but to be honest, twelve months on an album is a bit too much for me and I don't ever want to go through that ordeal again", he laughs.

So the lengthy, demanding studio work and extended schedule would explain why the CD single, the 14+ minute epic "And Then There Was Silence", was put out? To whet fans' appetites?

"Yeah, sort of", notes Kursch. "It had been a long time since our last record and it was sort of a statement, to let fans know that we were back. We needed to really provide fans with the best possible excuse for the extended waiting time. A lot of our fans have been patient with us, but have also been disappointed that the album is not out yet. I think we had announced the record to come out in July or August of 2001. Then it got bumped to September or October and we knew it was too late to release anything and would have to wait till 2002, so we decided to provide the fans with something quite excellent to show that we were back by putting out the 14+ minute song, and also including the song "Harvest of Sorrow" [an outtake from the _Nightfall in Middle-Earth_ sessions -- Adrian]. I think by doing this, we were on the safe side with our fans and they were willing to wait a bit longer for the new album."

The new album by Blind Guardian caught me by surprise, really. I mean, while I have numerous Blind Guardian releases in my collection at home, I have never been a die-hard follower of the power metal band's music. Until now. The new album basks in brilliance: from the stellar production work, glorious guitar riffs and heavenly vocal harmonies, _A Night at the Opera_ is a great festive piece of work that does away with normalcy and coats itself with a bubbly, colourful feel to the music. Just listen to songs like "Battlefield", "The Soulforged" or "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight" and you too will be singing along and enjoying the night out.

About the recording of _A Night at the Opera_, the singer comments, "We got to a certain point during the recording of this record, a record that was very delicate and needed a lot of attention to make sure it all turned out okay, where we knew that this was a lot to take on at once. This is a complex record and things could easily turn out of control and bring it all crashing down. The big task was for us to keep things in control and make sure everything was reaching the same level of creativity and mood throughout the album. I also think our producer did a great job of making sure all the dynamics of the record worked well off one another."

He continues, "For me as a vocalist, I just tried to get better with this album, as I do with every album. In terms of the songwriting, it was really weird this time around. Andre provided me with complete sections. All the music was done and all I had to do was add vocals on them. It already had guitar, drums and orchestra parts laid out and I didn't have a lot of space to bring something of value out of these somewhat over-packed musical arrangements. I was trying to make my work vital and passionate, trying hard to just make my voice complement what music had already been assembled and given to me. It was a unique experience, to say the least."

Speaking of uniqueness, especially when you are discussing the themed escapades of the band such as past works _Tales From the Twilight World_ (1991), _Somewhere Far Beyond (1992) and _The Forgotten Tales_ (1996), _A Night at the Opera_ is not a concept album at all. And there is a reason for that, too. The singer explains.

"When we started to write this album, when it was in the early stages, we considered that this would not be a concept album. We wanted several songs to lyrically have different topics and as we got into the songwriting process more it became obvious that that was the case with the material, as a lot of the songs all went off in their own directions. But we did feel that there should be some kind of connection between the songs on this album, like a common thread going through them. So what we did was try to work in a lot of harmonies into the vocals, then the guitars and finally the orchestra. The harmonies on all three levels give this album a real operatic effect."

"When we were trying to come up with a name for the album I suggested _A Night at the Opera_", says the singer about the album title. "But I had thought about the Queen album _A Night at the Opera_ [the 1975 classic album that spawned the mega-hit "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- Adrian] and was unsure of using the title. I didn't really want it to come across as offensive to Queen's album. The rest of the guys in the band liked it, so we stayed with it. Plus it went along nicely with the somewhat operatic musical arrangements inside."

With a lengthy album at hand (70+ minutes of music), how then should fans tackle this record, Hansi?

"I know from my experience I like to take songs on one at a time, to just really listen to a song and try to get the most out of it. That is just me. But with this record, I also would recommend that to the fans who pick up this album, to really sit down and listen to each track very carefully. There is a lot going on and I think each demands a lot from the listener. If I was a casual listener, I would take my time with this album, because it is demanding and there is just so much going on. In short, any Blind Guardian fan should tackle this record how they choose to. Just as long as they enjoy it."

And does he still enjoy making music after all these years, or has he found himself wanting to break away from it lately?

"Oh no", responds Hansi. "I don't think I have ever gotten to a point where I was sick of making music. This is what I do and this is what makes me feel good inside. I really like to create music and just make music that inspires other people to start creating music or just send them off to another world where they can forget about their lives for a while. I also like talking about my music and doing interviews. I love to talk to magazines and fans when we have a record coming out. It allows me to be excited about my work and see how other people are reacting to what we have done."

With so much quality work under their belts, it must feel great to look back and see the work they have done, and add a solid outing like _A Night at the Opera_ to the list.

"I am proud of every album we have done, and when I look back it just makes me feel good to know that we have progressed musically with each album", he states. "With each album we also seem to get more and more popular and it feels good knowing that people are paying attention to our music."

And the progression continues...

"The most important goal for us with this album was to get the album out and just supply music fans with the best album that we could make. We always want to sound new, innovative and creative with each album. It is especially hard to start on a new album off, especially with an album like _Nightfall in Middle-Earth_ on your back, because you accomplished all that you could music-wise in that genre and field. You need to search out new fields and new ideas to try to make things different for the band. It is quite hard and it took us about five months to get into a decent songwriting process where we could experience significant changes compared to what we had done with _Nightfall in Middle-Earth_."

The singer ends off, "We really had to outdo ourselves, and judging by how much time we were holed up in the studio, I think I can honestly say we did a damn good job."

(article submitted 12/4/2002)


ALBUMS
3/29/2015 J Semprich 8 Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror
10/14/2006 Y Stefanis 7.5 Blind Guardian - A Twist in the Myth
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