Satan and Merlin Unite
CoC talks to Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kursch of Demons & Wizards
by: Adrian Bromley / Aaron McKay / Aaron McKay
Metal fans would probably think that Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer and Blind Guardian singer/bassist Hansi Kursch would have a difficult time venturing outside of their own bands to start up their new project, Demons & Wizards. Actually, according to Kursch, it wasn't that hard to do at all.

"It all just happened quite easily for us to get this together", starts Kursch when asked about the formation of D&W with guitarist Jon Schaffer. "It has been such a great time. Jon and I have known each other since the early '90s, and we knew what to expect from us getting together with our ideas. We're both professional and we were very confident with the musicianship we would bring to D&W."

"We'd talked about doing this for a while now", explains Kursch. "One day a while back we got together for an afternoon and just jammed. We got such a good vibe from that time and felt with chemistry that good, it would be a waste to not put these talents together. We just waited for the right time to do this. This was very easy to do for us, really. I mean there is so much we can do with Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, and there is so much else that we can venture out and do with D&W."

"The first time we met was on a promotional tour that I was doing", co-founder Jon Schaffer clarifies. "We ran into each other at a disco and the guys from Rock Hard magazine said "This is Hansi from Blind Guardian and these are the guys that you are going to be opening for", so we hit it off instantly there. Really, it was kind of a magical thing that doesn't happen between bands normally; we became brothers right off the bat -- right from the first day!"

The band's self-titled debut for SPV is a wicked combination of heavy-duty '70s guitars, breathtaking choruses and some of the finest melodic vocal stylings to hit metal in some time. Kursch and Schaffer have taken their talents from their current bands and etched them into D&W, but still set out to bring something new to the metal genre.

Together, the imaginative magic between these two uncommon individuals confidently exhibits itself on no better place than "Fiddler on the Green" and "Winter of Souls". "I just wrote that music [for "Fiddler on the Green"] and sent it over to Hansi. The whole concept is his and it's based on a true story", Jon elaborates. "[Hansi] was out walking his dog and he saw a little boy get killed on a bicycle -- hit by a car. Well, it happened again, like a week later -- same spot, same place in his neighborhood in a place where something like that would never happen. Over in Germany, the Fiddler is like what we call the Reaper." Sounds like the Demons & Wizards album cover, wouldn't you agree? In summary, the Fiddler makes a mistake and takes this little boy's life too soon. Thusly, he promised the boy he'll create this paradise for him. The girl in this scenario would have been this little boy's future wife, so the deal is that the Fiddle makes a heaven for this pair as part of the bargain. In case you were wondering, this is Jon Schaffer's favorite track.

""Winter of Souls" goes back to 1986 or something. I stumbled across it and added one new section, the clean bridge part towards the end; then it kicks up and gets heavy, that's new", Schaffer illustrates with his typical insight. "Hansi liked it a lot and I like the vocal melodies he came up with. In addition, he lyrically based it on the King Arthur and Mordred thing."

About his songwriting style and approach to the D&W material, Kursch says: "I find the material of D&W a lot darker. The topics range from weird fairy tales, bizarre dreams and fictional ideas, to life experiences. A lot of the stuff is more brutal that most of the stuff I would normally be doing with Blind Guardian. It was great to break away from a type of mold here", admits Kursch. "The thrill of making music was awesome. The best part was the whole spontaneity of things."

But what about those who are calling the new D&W record a meshing of Iced Earth and Blind Guardian styles? Kursch answers: "We never considered to do anything in between our bands' music or go a certain direction with the D&W sound. Jon can't deny his songwriting style and I have a very identifiable vocal style. While it may be an amalgamation of us creatively, I still hear something new with what we are doing."

The last three songs are a trilogy, right? "Yea! And I can't be blamed for it", Schaffer jokes good-naturedly. "Everybody's like, "Schaffer did another trilogy". It's not the case this time." This Dante-esque, near-_Stormrider_ abstraction is a wonder of de-evolution as a gnome takes a human through a losing faith scenario as it ranges from Creation to Revelation. Jon concludes: "I like dark stuff, man."

Many great things are in store for this praiseworthy band collaboration. Kursch finishes: "I hope that people who listen to the record two or three times will come to the conclusion that this isn't a straight copy of Iced Earth or Blind Guardian. It is a whole new experience, and an exciting one at that."

(article submitted 12/8/2000)

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