Meeting with BLIND GUARDIAN in Krefeld, Germany (07.-09.12.2001)|
part I. – the impressions from journey and meeting
…last arrangements for the visiting of BLIND GUARDIAN in their recording studio are culminating… A day before the flight departure I am learning from Pedro (webmaster of the official BG site) that guardians are have to photograph themselves for the new album, booklet at the day of our arrival and will be not able to pick us up at the airport, so we have to take a taxi to get to Grefrath) a small city located close to Krefeld where we will be accomodated). We fully understand and accept that change. We, me and Andreas, a Greek bard, try to find some identification signs to recognized each other at the airport in Duesseldorf.
…I arrive to Germany exactly at midday and have to wait for Andreas who is travelling from Athens. We manage to find each other immediatelly. Andreas is a little bit shorter guy at my age, with tanned skin so typical for "south" types, dressed in blue t-shirt Mirror Mirror. We are taking a first taxi. An older driver is trying to find Grefrath on the map quite feverishly and still repeating: "It is OK, it is OK" (probably to keep us in the car. Finally we are on the way. I am trying to be a bit familiar with Andreas. We are discussing just one topic - BLIND GUARDIAN. After 40 minutes we arrive to Grefrath and search for the hotel. We cross almost whole city, ask a lot of people, but nobody knows where the hotel named "Hoffmans" is located. Driver is still repeating his "OK, OK" . At last we meet Santa Claus, presenting a local wine in front of one shop. He gives us the right direction. Santa Claus knows everything.
…accomodation in family hotel – very kind mister hotelier is familiar with our arrival. Checking without problem. What next? A short SMS exchange on axis Grefrath-Portugal (Pedro´s homecountry)-Grefrath is running. He advises us we should be picked up at about 4PM. To spend free time we decide to walk around Grefrath. Pedro noticed, it is a "busy" city. An ironic meaning of Pedro´s "busy" we comprahend in no time – just empty streets, (except that with Santa Claus). After some hour we come back to hotel room and gather that photographing drag out and guards comes at about 8PM. We dedicate a spare time to sleeping. Eight passed, nine passed and Pedro let us know we can´t count with the meeting today. A little bit disappointed and quite hungry we aim to one (and maybe the only) restaurant on the square. Despite the staff communicate only in German language, they are very kind, the setting quite nice, a beer good and the dish excellent. Andreas is trying to mar the strain with his notices about table water which he ordered. He rejects not only "normal" drinks such as beer or wine but also a water with gas. He doesn´t drink any spirit, it means we have no chance to get drunk together. Let´s go to bed, hopefully we meet the guardians tomorrow!
We wake up at 8AM, breakfast is great. Mister hotelier attends us very carefully. A German hospitality surprises me a lot. During breakfast we have a talk with one American (from magazine Metal Edge) who intend to make an interview with the band. We discuss american metal scene, concerts and everything what is connected with it. We were a bit shocked to hear american labels don´t expense almost no money to support and promote european bands, their records and concerts. A classic european metal can´t break through. SLIPKNOT rules!!
The phone is ringing about 10:30. Andreas´s pale face indicates the call of high importance. Hansi (Kursch – singer) himself is calling. We should be ready at 3PM. We have some four hours for relax. Back to bed, Hansi promises us a long night in studio. We are waiting quite impatiently on the square before 3PM. Three o clock, half past three, a quarter to four… nobody. We are going back to the hotel such as cracked dogs. We are watching TV, at one channel they explaining the details of right church bell casting. When finally Andreas says: "Hansi is here…".
We are shaking hands directly thru the window (we are accomodated on the groundfloor). Hansi takes us to the studio. During the journey to Krefeld Hansi is talking about Friday events, today´s programme etc. Andreas is still frattling, giving me no chance to say a word :)). Finally we arrive to some factory area. We get out of the car and enter a big gates 2 - the door to BLIND GUARDIAN´s studio - the Twillight Hall.
We shake a hand with producer´s assistent Nordin (2 metres tall guy) and pass thru the corridor and some warehouse to the kitchenette. Here we find Thomen (Stauch - drums) and Marcus (Siepen - guitars) debating with some 5 or 6 german teenagers who won a meeting with the band via EMP and I think that MetalHammer… The conversation is fatering somehow that is why garrulous Andreas 2 3 4 is launching an argument. They know each other with Thomen thru the official Tavem chat so they have a lot to talk about. They are gingering up mutually and releasing a bit nervous atmosphere in this way. Andre (Olbrich - guitars) is coming so they are all together here.
After some 20 minutes we are invited to the operation room 2 where we listen to a brand new album. We are maximally concentrated with Andreas ´cos compositions are quite elaborated technically so listening is pretty choosey (more info in Part II). It is a shame that teenagers are still prattling, seems they are not able to appreciate this fantastic occasion. A releasing comes during the last composition "And Then There Was Silence" which we already know from the same named single. After the album listening we go back to the kitchenette, talking a little bit, teenagers are taking snaps 2 3 with the guards and then are taken by Hansi to some station. We peep to each other with Andreas as a real conspirators, we will be alone with them! Super!
Probably the most of time we spend with Thomen and Marcus. Hansi is away about 2 hours and Andre together with Charlie and Nordin hardly work on final mix and mastering. The deadline is settled to Sunday, the next day.It is evident that a busy and hectic atmosphere dominates overhere. As I mentioned we talk to Thomen and Marcus about two hours. Better to say we crack jokes. Andreas is sstill nettling Thomen because of the speed of new album and also his striking technique. ´Cos Andreas doesn´t wanna stop his flannel, I join the guardians and our three-guild kid Andreas whole evening :)). Afterwards I aim Marcus and ask him a few questions (just a small interview 2). When guys run away to operation room we take opportunity to meet Charlie - the producer.
About 8PM Hansi comes back. Now we enter recording room to to listen to the covers from the first international tribute to BLIND GUARDIAN, which I am also preparing. We listen to let say half of them when ordered dinner arrives. After the meal we alternately chat again with Thomen and Marcus. They have to leave us for an hour to finish mix arrangements. Meanwhile we, me and Andreas, make a detail search 2 3 4 in whole Twillight studio, chat with Nordin and at least partially again listen to the melodies from operation room. Than we listen with Hansi to the second part of covers. I am taking advantage from Andreas´ absence:) and chat with him about tribute and his impressions. Step by step all guys come in and we listen to tributes untill the last one. They enjoy tribute a lot (more info in Part II).
2AM is approaching and Thomen says he has to leave. He is starting to say hallo to us when I announce we have a presents for him and the others. We meet together in the kitchenette 2 (almost everything took place overthere). We exchanging presents 2 3 4 5 6 7 mutually, taking a snaps 2 3 4 5, very cordially we say good-bye to Thomen and chat a bit with other guys for a while. After quite exacting day we all start to feel tiired. Around 2AM we say hallo to everybody and start on a journey to hotel with Hansi. Marcus also leaves, only Andre, Charlie and Nordin stay.
On journey to Grefrath we discuss about family, tours etc. Wiht Hansi. Around 3AM we arrive to the hotel. We realize a sad truth, our meeting with Krefeld´bards is an history. We say good-bye to Hansi. Full of impressions as well as sadness we go to bed.
We wake up before 10AM and after the breakfast we expect Wolfgang - label Virgin´s manager who is in charge of BLIND GUARDIAN among others. Wolfgang takes us to the airport, during the journey we discuss all sorts of things. He is very kind, as all people we met in Germany. About 1PM we reach airport. We refresh ourselves before the flight (me with beer of course, Andreas with some water). At half past one we say hallo 2 to each other, Andreas´ flight to Athens is an hour earlier than mine to Prague…the story ends…
Summary: I wanna thank you to all guys from BLIND GUARDIAN above all, but also to all people I met during my trip to Germany. It was a really nice weekend which brought us a fantastic experience from the meeting. BLIND GUARDIAN are not just an excellent masters of world metal scene but first fantastic, open-hearted and very kind persons!!! I spent "only" some 10 hours with them and trully believe I meet them in near future again! After thiss meeting I like them…
Meeting with BLIND GUARDIAN in Krefeld, Germany (07.-09.12.2001)
part II. – news, observations, questions and answers
In Part II let me tell you about present observations, news around a new album, tribute project. The source was my trip to Krefeld in the beginning of December…
Guardians (my impressions)
Hansi – very nice and communicative person. Always ready to listen, answer, advise. Quite undoubtely he devotes himself to the organization stuff most of all band members. Perhaps oftenly he reasons about life, its sense – he is very receptive to the all events, both possitive and negative, no matter they concern him himself or other people. Family and above all his new born son are his happiness. He likes to search places which can make him stronger, from where he can draw an energy and inspiration. He surprised me a lot with his knowledge of Czech historical personalities such as Jan Hus or Charles IV.
Marcus - symphatetic, very communicative and friendly. His big hobby is internet and all what is connected with it. Quite surely he is an organizational type. He insists on his opinions uncompromisely, despite this he is able to accept other people views. He is fond of fans´ opinions, he is in close contact with them quite oftenly, he likes to attend different forums and chats. Perhaps he lives over somee stuff quite emotively.
Thomen – very friendly, nice, open-hearted, very symphatetic. He has a big sense of humour, you feel very comfortable with him. As Marcus he also likes to be in contact with fans. He impressed me greatly, probably tthe most from all guys. It is pitty he smokes as a chimney :).
André – very reserved, introvert who keeps himself rather on the side. He probably loves making spiteful notes. Music is everything for him. He is the one who enter the studio as a first one and leaves it as the last one. Quite surely he is a hair-splitter who won´t leave anything to chance.
I am very proud I was given an opportunity to listen completely whole album, which should be released on March 4, 2002. In following lines I try to briefly summarized my perceptions. Please don´t také my opinions as a dogma.
I listened to tha album just once what means absolutely nothing considering the character of last disc "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" and single "And Then there Was Silence". As in last to examples it is impossible to evaluate preparing album on basis of one, two nor ten listenings.
Quite surely you can expect more "hard" disc as the last Nightfall. Above all in first three songs I noticed uncompromised percussion lashes. Songs are intervowen by lot of motives so during first listening you can not catch everything – its difficult stuff. Forget about simple script verse-refrain- verse-refrain. An orchestral elements are very impressive, in 90% Hansi´s singing is supported by choral vocals or keys. Everything appeals quite monstrously and bombasticly. In "Precisious Jerusalem" is an agressive style intervowen by ethnic motive from the Near East. In "Battlefield" you are pull into the atmosphere of war din. Only in the beggining of the third song my ears were hitted by some unidentified techno element :(. One or two songs are a bit slower, the rest has a drift. You can expect combination of orchestrality of "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" and agressivity of "Imaginations From The Other Side" however at higher category. I couldn´t catch more… Maybe one more note. In one song I identified motive already used in "Mirror Mirror". During next listening of the last single "And Then There Was Silence" I can recognize once used melodies ("Into The Storm" or "A Dark Passage"). It isn´t a miss at all, but…
The album contains 10 tracks, spanish speaking fans (another arrangements for Argentina also), french and italian ones will have special bonus track "Harvest of Sorrow" in their languages included. Hansi confirmed that the spanish version is already sung. He is preparing french and italian versions in forthcoming period. He also let me know that french makes him quite big troubles that is why a french native speaker is expected who helps him with pronunciation and intonation.
Quite discussed is also the name of new album "A Night At The Opera". Fans of the rock band Queen surely remember one of its best albums which was presented in 1975 under the same name. I asked Marcus why they chose just this tittle and whether he has some relationship to Queen or the album. Marcus said they (means guardians) like this tittle and really don´t care name is the same as legend Queen used for its album 26 years ago. It happens quite oftenly that you find the same tittles of albums or songs on the music scene. Marcus insists there is a lot of orchestral elements used on the album but the substantial role in the name of album plays booklet cover above all. When you see it you concede that the better name couldn´t be chosen. Without respect to different petition and antipetition concerning album tittle change nobody is able to do somenthing with it, nor Virgin :). BLIND GUARDIANs in short takes their view… The name "Místy Tales And Poem Lost" proposed by fans was rejected because of repeated word "tales" (Tales from the…(1991), Tokyo Tales (1993), The Forgotten Tales (1996)), Marcus also told me they were chosen from two titles, but didn´t want to reveal the second one. Maybe it will be used for the next next disc and it is really amazing….
Cover won´t be designed by single painter Anry any more but by one English painter. Drawing is in rough sketch now. I asked Marcus where guardians are searching designers and what happen with Andreas Marschall. Marcus replyied that potential cover designers are recommended by official sites webmasters. Concerning Marschall, he is said to create videoclips at present time. In addition Marcus mentioned he started to draw for many bands, it means a similar motives, elements on treir albums begun to appear. And BLIND GUARDIANs rejects this, they wanna have a unique covers…
Tracklist: 1. Precious Jerusalem, 2. Battlefield, 3. Under The Ice, 4. Sadly Sings Destiny, 5. The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight, 6. Wait For An Answer, 7. The Soulforged, 8. Age Of False Innocence, 9. Punishment Divine, 10. And Then There Was Silence.
An international tribute project to honour of BLIND GUARDIANs became understandably a one of the discussed topics. It enjoyed me that Hansi was interested in covers as well as Marcus´s information that he already downloaded extracts for tribute site. For the presentation I prepared 9 complete songs and 5 short extracts (full versions has my german colleague Bjorn who didn´t manage to send them to me). Hansi, Marcus, Thomen, Andreas, Nordin and me (André was present just for a while) were listening to all covers. I am pretty sure that they enjoyed tribute lashes a lot, as far as I could noticed from their reactions during listening. Hansi praised Czech and Slovak covers above all. Globally he marked tribute as a successful project and avowed that covers have a much better level then he expected. Marcus asked us about plans with tribute and Hansi expressed an idea that project has a chance to assert itself thanks to its "non-comercial magic". Also he mentioned possibility that label will pay studio to some chosen bands to enable them touch the cover sound up. At the end Hansi expressed wish to keep presented CD with covers, what I couldn´t deny :). I am sure we can count with guardians´s help and support, even though they suggested anything concrete. The next day I discussed tribute topic also with Wolfgang (label Virgin manager responsible fro Blind Guardians) who implyied interest for detailed information…
Tours and concerts
The tour with a new album will start in Netherlands on April 12, 2002. Already confirmed are concerts in Germany, France, Russia, Greece, Spain and Italy. The band also plans concerts in the USA, asia and South America and expects terms confirmation. Marcus also confirmed a participation in Sweden or other scandinavian country. It is logical that I asked about concerts in the Czech Republic. Marcus replyied that everything depends on extent of asian and american concerts. Once the terms for those continents will be confirmed, they start to fulfil the line with other dates. He didn´t exclude participation in the Czech Republic but also didn´t confirmed it. They surely have an interest, also Hansi indicated this, but understandably it depends on many factors. BLIND GUARDIAN prepare themselves to také a part in many european festivals in 2003, so if they don´t manage to come this year, surely we will see them on some domestic festival the next year. I also asked Marcus if they will be able to play songs from the new album live and whether people won´t be dissapointed to hear those songs in "no studio" arrangement. Marcus drew my attention to the fact that just live versions bring something new to the listeners and they rather appreciate to hear the songs in another way. Not all songs are also "playable". They are still not sure whether to play "And Then There Was Silence" during the concents or not. They think about 2 keyboards on the scene. Hansi hinted they are ready to play about 3-4 songs from new album live…
Lord Of The Rings
In continuity with the launching the first part of trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" into the european cinemas I asked Marcus about their participation on the movie soundtrack. Marcus said they started to prepare the songs for "The Lord of the Rings" a long time before they started to talk about the shooting the movie. It is truth they talked to the movie people but finally they rejected their participation on the soundtrack from an objective reasons. It was out of the question to work on the new album along with music for the soundtrack. Album has understandably the priority. In addition to make a music for the whole movie is so extentive and complicted affair, it would také much more time than guardians could devote to. Marcus also controverted an opinion they submitted that music project to the movie people. Nevertheless admits that whole humbug made a great publicity for the guardians.
Project "The Lord of the Rings" is rather an orchestral than metal affair. They count with Hansi´s singing. Official publishing comes into consideration quite surely after new album publishing and tour realization. As Hansi said they do not wanna get into clash with official soundtrack. So in my (Votam´s) opinion not before 2004.
Mix and mastering were finished on December 12, 2001.
The last song "And Then There Was Silence" should be remixed.
How you compose the songs - do you write melodies on the paper?
Marcus: Nobody is notices anything, everything is in the head.
What do you think about CD-box (first 3 remixed albums, digitalized demo, cover CD) which was published in Europe by Ice Earth. Don´t you think they only pump a money from the fans´ pockets? Do BLIND GUARDIAN prepare something similar?
Marcus: It depens on the content of the box (music, price, bonuses, etc.) Personally I wouldn´t buy it.
Hansi: Maybe someday… after a long time…
They don´t count with the bonustrack for Japanese…
Hansi was influenced by his son´s birth. He is much more optimistic now, as he said it would project to the texts for the new album…
To the fan´s question concerning the relationship between the dragons on the single booklet and Troya war he answered that BLIND GUARDIANs had always got a booklets in fantasy style (dragon symbol they used f.e. on the album "Imaginations…", on T-shirts etc., so it belong to BLIND GUARDIAN). But he admits continuity, rather it depends on our imagination…
Hansi and the others were shocked when a month before the publishing single a complete mp3 with 14minutes´ "And Then There Was Silence" occured on the internet. He did wonder why also "Harvest Of Sorrow" were not released. He said that a similar activities are killing the music…
Freedom Call will be a "pre-band" on the concerts in Germany and Switzerland. They are also thinking about Brainstorm. Hansi expressed a wish to concert with Iced Earth within the USA.
About 30 songs are planned for the concert tour. They should surely play "Born In A Mourning Hall", " Another Holy War". Hansi rejected "The Last Candle" because it doesn´t sound very well live. (Note: I heard a live cover from a slovak Dead Poets Society in Hells Bells 2 months ago and it was really great - so I do not know…).