Blind Guardian’s eleventh studio album The God Machine has been released on 2 September 2022. Last week I had a chance to talk to the vocalist Hansi Kürsch about their new album, their Somewhere Far Beyond Tour, the band’s future projects, their upcoming Istanbul show and many more things.You can watch the interview at the link below.
Hello Hansi. How are you?
I’m good. How are you?
I’m OK. I’m trying to be OK.
Things are devastating here. It’s been more than one week, and the death toll is increasing, unfortunately.
Yeah. I just recognized it when it happened, and they reported, I think it was 400-500 people. I was like “Oh, if that stays like that, that can be very happy with an earthquake like this size. It’s very likely and unfortunately it turned out to be the case. And it’s still open.
Some experts say that it might be more than 200.000 people.
Yeah. But they found some people alive even today, or yesterday?
Yeah, even today some people were rescued.
That’s a very good thing. It’s a miracle but it’s at least a sign of hope.
I wish the government could act faster.
I have to say it’s pretty much the same everywhere nowadays, you know, they are too slow. Organizations try to fill in and help but it’s not the same. Especially in this region, it’s so difficult.
Yes, also because of the winter conditions.
Surprisingly, it’s very cold there. I didn’t know that.
Yes, it’s cold. Some cities especially get a lot of snow during winter.
How is everything with you?
I can’t complain. I’m in the studio. I’m doing my regular work. So, there’s no need to complain. We’re having a good time preparing for the first shows already. I’m sure you saw that we start playing in April. We’ll do our first show in Denmark and we’ll travel to Brazil for the first time in many many years. So, from our side, everything is positive, and we are very excited.
Brazilian fans are also very excited.
Yeah, hot-blooded, crazy… and I’m really anxious to see what to expect there because it’s a big festival and we’ve never played such a big festival in Brazil.
That’s good. I just saw your video on Patreon with Marcus (Siepen).
The one you’re talking about some future plans like new recordings or old recordings. You didn’t give any more detail, but you said that you’re rerecording some old stuff. Something like that.
We’re working on anniversary stuff and also, we started preproduction for some songs. The anniversary stuff is close to be finalized. Songwriting just started. There are many different missions, but the main focus is on the live set-ups; we have to do a lot of stuff there.
The anniversary? Do you mean for Somewhere Far Beyond or something else?
Yeah, something else. I don’t want to talk too much because it’s not defined exactly, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about it right now, but it would go beyond Somewhere Far Beyond. This is pretty much in the box. We worked on that during the last year, even before we did the touring. And that all is set up for most of the parts and we just have to complete things, then we have to find the right occasion to release such an output.
Good to hear! There are some surprises.
Yes, it is exciting stuff, I have to say. When we started, we intended to do basically an add-on to the live recordings which would come later on, so the basic idea was just to go into the rehearsal room and then play a very rough version of Somewhere Far Beyond, something in between these live versions and the studio recording but once we started we all were kind of passionate to get a result which could compete with what we did in 1992. So right now, we are mixing it. I believe we did great. It’s really close to what we did in 1992 and that’s an accomplishment.
Do you have any date in mind to release it?
Not really. We’ve just started and we’re trying to groove us into that new year. We are busy but especially when it comes to such things, we have a quite open schedule. It can be within this year, but we can also postpone it to 2024. The original idea was obviously to do touring of Somewhere Far Beyond in 2021 and then we would have been obliged to release it in the anniversary year of 2022. But since everything was so shaky, all time frames were just burst into nothingness. Now we’re just taking as it comes but we are proceeding quickly, and it really depends on the record company and the partners we want to release it with.
We also have some good news for your fans in Turkey. You’re coming here.
Finally. The same thing with Brazil. Such a long time.
Yes, since 2015. There was a show in 2016 but it was canceled. I think there was some terrorist attack in Istanbul. So, it’s been around seven years.
Yes, it’s crazy how time runs. No matter how much we tried to keep the time span shorter it goes into the opposite direction and that’s the case here again. Of course, we wanted to release an album far earlier. We wanted to come back to any country, actually, but also to Turkey, obviously. And things went completely out of hand. I’m just happy that we finally get back to a normal routine where shows like this will be possible. But, you’re right, in 2016 there was such a show and I can’t recall it exactly why it was canceled. Maybe because of a political situation.
Yes, there was a terrorist attack in Istanbul, at the airport. I hope that won’t be the case in November because we will have elections.
Oh! Is it in November?
No, it should be in May but because of the earthquake it might be postponed. I don’t know what will happen. Things are really complicated here. I hope there won’t be any problem.
I can imagine, considering how things are here normally and how everything got more complicated. I would assume that it is super difficult in Turkey. We just hope for the best and once the election is done, the things will turn back to normal, and hopefully that would be the case before November. But we’re planning and intending to come no matter what.
Hopefully. I got my tickets and also, I will bring my 19-year-old cousin with me. He saw you last year for the first time in Athens, Greece, and he was very excited. Now he’s also very excited for the show in November.
We will be better. I mean the Greek audience was really good. It was a good day, but I was very sick. I keep my fingers crossed that this is not going to be the case when we come to Turkey but so far, I’m in good condition.
By the way, tickets for front row seats are almost sold out for Istanbul show.Do you have any plans for another city in Turkey like Ankara or Izmir?
I haven’t heard anything about it. There was not even a discussion so far. I would be surprised because we have some show schedule for afterwards. I think they’re not announced now. It technically would be possible. We have a few off days, but I haven’t heard anything. I even didn’t know that ticket sales were going well, and I have no idea how the rates are. That is something which is beyond me. I really do not pay attention too much to it because it would be too much work.
I see. Last year I saw Blind Guardian four times on Somewhere Far Beyond tour.One show was in Athens and three were in Germany. Maybe you remember; we met after the Oberhausen show. One of the highlights of these shows was when you let the audience sing on “Black Chamber”.
It didn’t go very well, right?
We skipped the song quickly, I can tell you (laughs). That’s the song which confuses us and the audience too many times because it seems they do not know what to do there. I passed the part to the audience at different spots and you know it went wrong in, I would say, seventy to eighty percent of the cases. It was fun, really funny and this is what a live show is about. It’s maybe a more difficult song to sing along than I expected.
Yes, it is. We tried our best, though.
There were some good tries. There were some people, you know, literally saving the situation because they kept on singing. I think there was one occasion, maybe that was the one in Oberhausen when we had to stop, and I started discussing with the audience but in most cases, there was at least one or two people who saved the evening.
Let’s move on to The God Machine. It’s been a while since its release. Do you have any observation on the reactions for the album?
We expected it to be received very well and it seems to be the case. I haven’t read or heard a lot of bad reviews. There were not even complaints. Usually, that’s part of our skin to recognize some people dislike certain things but here I would say it’s like 97-98 percent of the people seem to appreciate it. And even the two percent which probably did not like it, they are quiet. I think it is a fan album. The reactions are really good. We were kind of expecting it but seeing it happen is always something else. Of course, there’s always a chance for surprises. At some points we simply did not recognize that there were things people probably would not like but here we are quite confident.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
After all the years working on it and after having the album at home myself, I would say it’s “Secrets of the American Gods”. That’s the strongest song on the album. I consider it to be the best epic song we wrote in a long time.
Yeah, it’s a great song. Mine is still “Life Beyond the Spheres”. I really love that song.
Yeah, it’s a very nice song and, of course, one of the more progressive ones. That was more in the tradition maybe of “Bright Eyes” even though “Bright Eyes” is probably a bit more commercial and a bit more straightforward than “Life Beyond the Spheres” but it has a great atmosphere and it has great parts. I also like it, but it was one of the more difficult songs on the album even to record it and compose it basically. There was a lot of pre-production we had to do for this one. The result is really stunning.
I have a little longish question and a little complicated. It might be a little personal, so it’s OK if you don’t want to answer it. The name of the album is The God Machine. And especially some songs deal with the concept of God and these songs seem to have problems with God or the concept of God. For example, you say “God must be dead, I realized” in “Deliver Us From Evil” or “Will I come to terms with a God / Who’s avoiding the roads I am on? / I count on him no more” in “Damnation”. Is it just because of the books and stories these songs are based on, or do these lyrics reflect your point of view toward God or any kind of creator?
It’s all about narration and fictions, so, even in reality… It’s a bit harsh to say so but “Damnation” is a fictional god and that is really related to the protagonist of the story who am I supposed to be by singing the song and telling the story from his perspective. And it was more or less coincidence in the beginning, if there’s something like coincidence, that there were so many things related to deities and god directly. “Deliver Us From Evil” is about the Puritans and the witch trials in New England and that’s mainly influenced by The Crucible by Arthur Miller. And, of course the perspective there would be on “our” god – on the gods of the Christians, of the Muslims, and of the Jews, and in that particular situation I’m sure whether you believe in god or not we all felt forsaken and lost. And, in the particular situation of the story in “Deliver Us From Evil” obviously there is a good reason to question if there is a god. And if there is a god and if he is not able to stop such violence or such madness then the question must be allowed whether he’d dead or alive. That’s basically a critical perspective on mankind more than on religion or god because religion only partly has something to do with what happened there and with what happens in our nowadays’ life.
Also “Deliver Us From Evil”, as you said, is based on Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, and in one interview I heard you mentioned Arthur Miller and the hunt for communists in America during the McCarthy era. I haven’t read the play and I didn’t know anything about its connection to McCarthyism. Can you give more detail about that?
Well, it’s pretty obvious. The story is always the same. History repeats itself in that particular case. There is denunciation and madness in people. No matter how you look at it, whether it’s communist hunt or what we faced in the last four five years. It’s all about denunciating people and proclaiming the righteousness for oneself. So that’s a very actual story, I felt. Arthur Miller once said that if this play is shown in a country, you can either say that they survived a totalitarian system or they’re on their way to a totalitarian system. And this is what we constantly have to be careful and we have to pay attention and we have to think for ourselves. I think this is pretty much Arthur Miller tried to deliver. Of course, he was in big trouble during the McCarthy era and he reflected the situation of the people who got witch hunted. And we are experiencing that again, and again and again. It never stops. It’s very actual.
Yes. As you said, unfortunately, there are a lot of similarities to nowadays’ society.
Right. And you never know from where it comes. It comes all of a sudden and it really has to do with a creed of people and not necessarily the creed in religion. Once you start believing in the wrong snake charmers, you’re in trouble and other people might be as long as you believe in these snake charmers.
Talking about books, I remember you recommending The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. I was very happy to hear it because I suggest this book to my students every year. I’d like to know what other non-fiction books you like or maybe if you want to talk about The Shock Doctrine you can.
The Shock Doctrine and, in general, books, no matter by whom they’re written, they are better time witnesses than any newspaper or any TV news or radio news. They are all framed and manipulated. Of course, there is an intention in a writer like Naomi Klein if she writes such a book, but she stands for it and the book is there forever. So, whatever she’s writing she’s writing with a confidence and with a perspective of the status quo. Things may change in the future and some things might even turn out to be wrong but she’s making a point and she’s delivering her perspective on things. She researched quite severely and deeply into the way the society works or society is manipulated and how things are driven by elites. How ever you look at it, this is what it is. It is political, and she just let the curtain fall at some points. People have to do it. You have to think for yourself and you have to come up with your own conclusion. I feel that is much easier if I have a guidance by someone like her in terms of such a gigantic book which really shows you the perspectives from outside. It’s not like “progressive is good, conservative is bad”. At points, it all can be bad. She just nails out so many things in the book itself, so I would recommend reading it. It’s really impressive to see what is going wrong on this planet. She has written more books and she gets attacked by the right and the left and by the center as well and that’s a very good sign, I think (laughs). That means that she tries to be honest, she really tries to make her point and tries to tell her story, to reveal her perspective on things. There are some valuable insights, I would say. I have not checked everything if it’s completely accurate but the conclusions she comes up with, they are quite logic and they can help you think. Basically, you have to come up with your own conclusion. That’s ever since Immanuel Kant, the big thinker. You may not understand it, you might not be able. I’m not able to understand everything. But you have to have the courage to think for yourself. This is only possible if you try to study. And studying Naomi Klein is not the worst thing to do. It’s even a very good start. It’s probably a bit complicated but the insights she’s delivering, they’re quite accurate and I would say they’re up to date, even with The Shock Doctrine. Nothing has changed. I mean, some things just become more and more clear. I read a book. I’m not sure what the guy’s name is. It’s called the The Death of the Gods (Carl Miller) and that’s about the rising of the new superpowers. It tries to explain that a very small amount of people acquired so much power because of high-tech companies. And it’s about surveillance capitalism. All is a bit described in there. It’s interesting to see how power has changed, how the tools of power have been delivered into other hands, but the way people maintain power is pretty much the same. And that’s not always for the good of the majority. One has to see it clearly. Of course, there is no conspicuous super power which is conducting everything but there are people holding a lot of power because of their financial success basically and because of the tools they have in hand. If someone controls the internet, that means something of course. And there’s just a very small hand of people and everything can be manipulated by that. It’s a quite interesting book because it starts with the early beginning of hacking and then it goes into very different direction and again Carl Miller investigates very deep and he goes very odd ways. I like that a lot.
I will check it for sure. Going back to music, in a recent interview, André said that he prefers short choruses, but you go for long, and indistinct chorus parts in songs and you try to put the whole book in choruses because you read a lot.
Yeah (laughs)… There are two sides to each story. I have to say André is the one who likes to put in as many elements into a very small part and this sometimes creates a reaction from my side and so there are many overlapping things going on at the same moment. Funny that André said that, because if I want to clear it and make it straighter, he’s the first one complaining if anything is missing. Like the chorus in “Blood of the Elves” and – “Deliver Us From Evil” was OK but – in “Blood of the Elves” it was him who wanted that quite occupied structure. So, I’m surprised to hear that. In terms of regular chorus, I wouldn’t mind having a chorus like “Valhalla” again, but the structure of the songs is so different and therefore I do not really believe that this short, very easy to get along with choruses ever coming back to Blind Guardian. My dilemma is, and that’s probably André’s point, if I have a story to tell I don’t like to repeat the words too many times even if it’s the same part or even if it’s a chorus, I’d like to change the lyrics a little bit, because otherwise it’s just like copy and paste and I do not like that.
I see. Going back to The God Machine… At one point, “Life Beyond the Spheres” reminds me of “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. Did you do that on purpose? I’m asking this because there was Led Zeppelin influence on the song “Final Warning” on Demons & Wizards’ last album as well.
Yeah. When I heard the final outro part in “Final Warning” I recognized that, and I also treated the vocals into that direction. So that was more or less done in intention. In “Life Beyond the Spheres” I did not recognize it. I think the vibe really comes from the set-up André arranged. I’m sure he knows the song “Kashmir”, but I would be very surprised if that’s a major influence for him. So, I think it’s pure coincidence. When I heard the part, I didn’t recognize it, but immediately some people mentioned that there’s such a connection. When I listened to it and when I did my vocals I was really more in – if I want to go back and make a comparison that would be Rainbow’s “Stargazer”. That was more with what I was conducted to when listening to it and it felt very modern. For me it was not really that obvious that there was a “Kashmir” connection, but many people said so.
Also, I heard that there were 14 songs at the beginning, but you didn’t put some of them on the album. Do you plan to work on these songs in the future? And can you give some information about the song on Cervantes?
Ok that’s the only song we finished during the production. It’s called “Trial By Fire”. But it has a progressive structure and it has a kind of 80’s metal feeling at points. So, we felt it did not fit into the musical context of the album and therefore decided to hold it for later occasion. This song for sure will be released one day. In which format, I don’t know right at the moment, because if we start new songwriting and if the songwriting goes again into a completely different direction in comparison to that song which is now called “Trial By Fire”, then we’ll have to find another spot to place it, but that’s something to consider later. Right now, we’re not really in the process of releasing anything new because The God Machine has just been released. And I kept it into, as I mentioned, in a dedication to Cervantes and Don Quixote. It has pretty good lyrics. I was a little angry about our decision even though I was one of the people who supported the idea not having it on the album. The lyrics are really good and the song itself is very interesting. People will like it but it’s more on the modern progressive side. Nothing compared to “Life Beyond the Spheres” but more on the progressive side. The other songs are also too diverse. There was something disturbing in each of these songs. The one did not fit because of the musical context, the other one was not completely finished because everyone wasn’t satisfied. It was a logical decision. If you’re not sure about stuff like this, and our productions take forever anyway even with finished songs, we just have put them aside. There is one called “Misery Noir” which is a very progressive, very jazzy song which can be used for any crime movie or so. It’s very difficult to say. This I believe we also will finish one day because it’s like a little musical within six minutes, and it has a very suspicious atmosphere. So, it would be nice if we produce that one day. And it’s such a distinguished separate song. We just need the right spot to bring that in. the other ones I do not know. We may pick some ideas up. They’re not forgotten completely but they’re in the storage room. And I don’t know if they ever see the light of the world.
A few months ago, you started a Patreon project or as you call it Blind Guardian Premium. How did the idea emerge and what do you have in mind for the future?
There was a discussion about that some years ago. There was a company contacting us and they wanted to establish something similar to Patreon. That was the first time we got in touch with something like this. It never happened. I don’t know why. Maybe because of Corona or the company stopped working on the idea, but we continued proceeding the idea. And all of a sudden someone suggested Patreon as the platform for it. I think it’s quite an accurate one for an occasion like this. The driving force of the idea behind it is to have something like a fan club. Because all the social media, how they work nowadays, they do not give you a chance to really have that connection to people who want to be part of a such a thing like a fan club. And this is how we treat it. It has additional information about the band. We of course will still provide on Facebook, YouTube and whatever existing media is to make people happy but the ones who want to get a closer insight to what we’re doing or probably to our regular lives they have a chance via Patreon. I think that’s a good idea.
I agree. Also, some bands record every single show of theirs and release them as official bootleg in mp3 and CD formats. That would be great if you consider it. I don’t know if you have an idea like that.
I’d say we have films from ever since 1991 or 1992, somewhere in André’s apartment. He collects all that stuff, but they have a bad quality. I don’t know if we follow that exactly but of course the idea is to get people closely connected to the band but also to give them an insight and these live shows would be an option. I don’t know if we do it with each and every show, but I believe there will be occasions where we just deliver stuff like this.
The last time we talked was three years ago and I asked you if you planned to watch Amazon’s TV show The Rings of Power? Did you watch it?
No, I haven’t (laughs). I was kind of annoyed by The Wheel of Time and so many of these TV series, so I didn’t even consider it to be an option to give The Rings of Power a chance. Because, just the rumors, they told me I’d better keep it as it is, and it doesn’t make sense. And I’m anxious to see if they go for season two or not because I feel it was a disaster for them. I didn’t watch Willow. I wanted to watch it as well because I liked the movie but then first people I talked to said “Don’t do it. It’s a sacrilege again.” Therefore, I skipped that as well. I’m more open minded when it comes to Star Wars.
I made a mistake and watched it. It was really horrible.
But now you know it (laughs). If there is a season two you don’t have to watch it.
I didn’t even watch the last two or three episodes except for only some short scenes.
I don’t know if it’s about the third age or I don’t know if they went further back and what exactly their intention is but the Tolkien universe, if we exclude The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is like a chronology. It’s plain words and just a description of what happened. You can do so many things with it and you can combine it, but I think it’s quite easy to stick faithful to the original there. You don’t have to invent your own stories. Peter Jackson did that, but I think he paid tribute in a very smooth way even with The Hobbit which some people already considered to be too far off, but it somehow fitted in. It was at the edge at some points. But with The Lord of the Rings and everything related to Tolkien especially when it comes to moving pictures, I would be very careful because you destroy the images and the impact of these words and the worlds he created with the words.
I agree. I think you’re planning to perform Legacy of the Dark Lands with the band. I heard something like that.
Yeah, but that’s at least five years away from now. There is a show in Krefeld. I think it’s next week. It’s a local festival where the symphonic orchestra plays along with bands from Krefeld. The organizer contacted me, and he asked for our participation but since we were so busy until late December and started being busy in the new year already, I had to turn down the request but then he came up with the idea to play two instrumental songs of the Legacy of the Dark Lands album. So, this is coming this year. That will be the premier but other than that we still keep that aside. It’s a lot of work and we have to come up with a good concept for that. Right now, we’re working on the concept for The God Machine. It’s pretty easy but when we talk about Legacy of the Dark Lands that’s completely different.
Do you think about releasing a DVD from the Somewhere Far Beyond tour?
I believe there will be some moving pictures. We do a sort of anniversary thing like we did for Imaginations From the Other Side. There were two professionally filmed shows: the one in Gelsenkirchen when we headlined Rock Hard Festival and there was Hellfest show in Clisson. I haven’t checked the material, but I think we can use either one of them for the DVD. Then we have plenty of stuff for a live recording for a live CD which probably will feature separate songs from separate shows. That is something we have to discuss. And as said we have the re-recording of Somewhere Far Beyond which is very interesting and that will be released, I hope within this year, but if things turn out different then it might be 2024.
I’d personally love to see a Nightfall in Middle-Earth tour as well, but I think some songs on that album are very difficult to play live, right?
Yes, they are difficult to be performed live but we’re working on options. I don’t think that we do an anniversary tour for this album since we tour with The God Machine. We probably will not tour afterwards then it is about time for new songs and therefore we have to skip the idea of a Nightfall in Middle-Earth tour for now. But five years in terms of Blind Guardian will go by very quickly and I would count on a Nightfall in Middle-Earth tour in 2028. If things turn bad, then it is 2029. But I would see that. And we have different skills and different ways of preparing such stuff nowadays so it’s not completely impossible. Four or five years back, I would have been far more defensive and saying that the whole album is playable, but I would say it is. Of course, there will be compromises. It will not be exactly as it is on the album, but we are approaching very closely to it, but it takes a while. Right now, this was of course something we had in consideration, but we just skipped the idea for now.
Before we finish, I have two fan questions. One is about the story of the song “The Last Candle”. What are the lyrics about?
That’s very closely related to the album cover and the back-cover artwork. I’m not sure what was first, whether the idea of involvement of the dwarf with the sack of gold in hand and the guardian in the twilight hall or if the story was first. I would rather say the concept for the album cover was first but out of this I tried to build up a typical eighties fantasy story telling us a little bit about the world, basically the twilight world and the betrayal of the dwarf.
Some lyrics remind me of the Tolkien stories, maybe something out of The Lord of the Rings, the parts of the song about the trees.
That’s true. They are very close. I remember I read another book at that time and I was considering that to be an option for “The Last Candle” and I’m sure that was also very much inspired by The Lord of the Rings as many of the books were in the 80s. I think that’s where the connection comes from but it was plain storytelling there.
The second question… Will you ever play “All The King’s Horses” live?
My mind is mixed up sometimes. I’m not sure if we didn’t try to play it one time. There is a chance. Especially if we consider an unplugged show or a more ballad related tour then this, for sure, is an option. Right now, it’s not on the list for the year, so there’s no chance performing it. But for the future I would not say it’s impossible.
There are a lot of songs which are fan favorite, but you never play them live.
Yes, but for “All The King’s Horses”, I didn’t even know that this is a fan’s favorite. If I look it on, let’s say, Spotify, I can see the ranking of the songs and how they developed over the years. There is a clear definition of “fan’s favorite” when it comes to streaming music. It doesn’t matter if it’s Apple or Spotify or any of the other services. “Skalds and Shadows” for sure is one of the songs people seem to like a lot and we haven’t played that for a while. But I didn’t know about “All The King’s Horses”.
Maybe for the diehard fans because I hear from my friends who are Blind Guardian fans. Also, “Curse My Name”. I think you never played “Curse My Name” either.
That’s also doable. That’s also a fan’s favorite. You might be right there. Difficult one. I’m happy that it’s not on the list for the year but one fine day we would have to find a solution for the center part where the tap dancing is and all the overlapping choruses. Maybe we could just accomplish it like we did with “Wheel of Time” where there was just Frederik’s (Ehmke) playing and we had a video running and everyone else got something to drink. That could be an option for this one but to accomplish that difficult mid-section would take a lot of energy and time and that would minimize the chances of us playing it live but if we find a solution like this then it’s very possible that we’d play it one day.