No long intros are going to be made here, this is just something that we are very proud of having done. Follows the transcript of our communication with guitarist Markus Siepen of Blind Guardian, one of Germany's leading metal bands that has just released a new single called "And There Was Silence". You wanna know more about it, as well as about the past, present and future of the band? Read on…


MetalKings.com: Hello Markus! How are you doing?

Markus: I'm fine. I mean we're pretty busy at the moment but we're fine.

MetalKings.com: I guess you're calling from Twilight Hall Studios, yes?

Markus: No, from home.

MetalKings.com: Can we start with questions, OK?

Markus: Yes, of course.

MetalKings.com: In the beginning I'd like to ask you some things about the past of the band. How did you come up with the name Blind Guardian?

Markus: Oh! (laughs) I mean, when we started recording demo tapes we had a different name back then, we were called Lucifer's Heritage. We recorded two demos under that name but a lot of people thought we were going black metal because of the Lucifer in the name. So when we finally signed a record deal we thought about the name and said, 'Well, we have to change it' because we never played black metal and we didn't want people to connect us with that kind of music. So we sat down in the studio and wrote just all kinds of names on the sheet of paper and picked the one we liked most and that was Blind Guardian. So there's no really special meaning behind it, we just liked that name, we took it and I guess that was a good decision.

MetalKings.com: I heard that the name was taken from a book by Stephen King. Is it true?

Markus: No, no, that's not right. There're several rumors about that and this is just one of them. (laughs)

MetalKings.com: Another thing is that as far as I know you didn't play on those two demos. How did you get involved in the band? I mean, who invited you?

Markus: At that time I played in a different band and Lucifer's Heritage and my band shared the same rehearsal room so when they had problems with the guy who played guitar...

MetalKings.com: Markus Dork, I guess.

Markus: Yes, he was one of the guys. There were actually two players before me. Markus Dork played on the first demo and a guy called Christoff Theissen played on the second one. When they also had problems with this guy they asked me if I would like to do a couple of sessions with them and maybe join the band. And since I liked their style of music and we knew each other at that time for quite some time, so I knew we would get along so I joined the band and the rest is history.

MetalKings.com: I also would like to know how you got in touch with Kai Hansen.

Markus: The guy who produced our first albums, Kalle Trapp, he is from Hamburg so he knew Kai. And the contact was made by him because Kai just visited us in the studio, he heard about the band so he visited Kalle and us, was curious about us. So we played a couple of sessions and he recorded a solo on "Follow The Blind" for the first time I guess (track "Hall Of The King"). And that's how we met Kai and a good friendship developed from that. I mean, Hansi sang on a couple of his albums and he played on a couple of our albums, good friend.

MetalKings.com: So do you know other guys from Helloween or Gamma Ray?

Markus: We know all Helloween, we know all Gamma Ray. I mean, Gamma Ray we of course knew from Kai and we've visited them in their studio, they visit our studio and when we play in Hamburg. And we know the guys from Helloween when we played a couple of festivals during the last tour together with them.

MetalKings.com: You know, I heard so many different opinions of German musicians about the current work of Michael Kiske. What do you think of it?

Markus: I have to say I did not hear it so I can't tell you anything about it. I know that he released two solo albums but I don't know a single one of them. I guess he's about to release the third one but I don't know a single song of his albums. So I can't say anything about it, sorry.

MetalKings.com: OK, no problem. So you recorded two demo tapes before Blind Guardian. Did you play anything from them during the first tours?

Markus: Yes, "Battalions Of Fear", the title track of the second demo, the song "Trian By The Archon" from the second one and the song "Wizard's Crown" was also on the second demo tape. And from time to time when we're in the mood we play a song called "Brain" live from the first demo tape but we didn't release it and we didn't record it for an album. But a lot of people are asking for old stuff at the moment, from those demo tapes and we said, 'If we might do another "Forgotten Tales" album sometime in the future we might do them' but there's nothing planned like that at the moment. But if we might do another one we might re-record a couple of those songs but it's not planned at the moment.

MetalKings.com: So is it possible that you re-release those demo tapes one day?

Markus: They have been available through our fan-club but I don't know if they have any left at the moment. But they have been available for quite some time.

 

MetalKings.com: Let's talk about the current days of the band. As far as I know you're pretty close to releasing a new album. Well, I heard that the song "Harvest Of Sorrow" was originally done for "Nightfall In Middle Earth"...

Markus: Yes, I wrote that song back in 1998 but it didn't really fit on the "Nightfall" album so we originally planned to release another EP after "Nightfall..." with "Harvest Of Sorrow" and two other tracks to finish the lyrical concept of the album. But unfortunately we had to cancel those plans for the EP because Hansi had some bad hearing problems. It was exactly at the time we planned to record this in order to finish the recording. So we had to cancel this, and now we release "Harvest Of Sorrow" as one of two songs on the new single...

MetalKings.com: Yeah, about the single. It's quite strange that you decided to release a 14-minute track as the first single from the new album. And as far as I know no band has done that before. Didn't you think about releasing an edited version?

Markus: OK, there are two reasons for that. First of all, we really liked that song, and we thought that it would be pretty unique to do something like that because no band ever thought about releasing a 14-minute number as a single track. And we also didn't release an album for quite some time, we released "Nightfall" in 1998 and the new album will be released in May next year. So... oh sorry, not May, it will be in March. (laughs) So we thought it would be a cool thing to present really a lot of material to the fans. And with thing single, with two songs, they get 20 minutes of new music for them. So that's our way of saying to our fans, "Thank you very much for waiting so long for the new album."'

MetalKings.com: Well, and Hansi Kursch will not play bass on the new album, right?

Markus: Yes, that's true. He didn't play bass, it's the same thing like on the last one. Oliver Holzwarth will play bass, he's a friend of ours. He used to play in the band called Sieges Even but they split up last year or two years ago so he now plays in Paradox. And he's a friend of ours, he's a really great bass player, he again recorded the bass tracks for the album. He will probably play with us on tour, or Hansi might play bass again - we don't know that at the moment. OK, we'll see.

MetalKings.com: Yeah, right. But why did Hansi decide not to play bass?

Markus: Well, first of all, concerning the last tour, Hansi wanted to try it because it's really hard for him to sing vocal stuff and play bass at the same time. Because to focus on the vocals is a hard job and playig bass at the same time makes it even harder. So he said, 'I want to try and give my bass to somebody else.' And concerning the album, it's basically the same. I mean, it's really a lot of work to write for his vocal stuff and also record it, so he just wanted to focus on the vocals because that's more important for him, of course. And we said, 'OK, let's leave the bass to somebody else so there won't be any problems.'

MetalKings.com: The song "And Then There Was Silence" seems to be based on the Trojan War story. So will the whole album be based on it or just this particular song only?

Markus: This song and another one from the album are based on the Trojan War. But the rest is on different topics. I mean, there's one song about Jesus Christ, one song about Mitchell, there's a song about fantasy stories, and "Harvest Of Sorrow" is the only one still based on Tolkien because it was written like I said before, originally it was written for "Nightfall", so there're different topics and it's definitely no concept album like the last one.

MetalKings.com: "Harvest Of Sorrow" is a love song, which is quite unusual for a German heavy metal band. What do you think is the main reason for it?

Markus: To be honest I don't really know. As far as I remember our lyrics it's the first love song we ever did. And I mean, this one was based on the lyrical concept, well, the whole stuff was about "The Simarillion" by Tolkien and that's just one his chapters. It deals with a tragic love story, so it obviously became a love song. Well, it wasn't planned, we didn't sit down and said, 'We've got to have a love song on the next album' and as far I remember there won't be any other love songs on the album now... that wasn't planned actually. I mean, I think, many heavy metal bands don't like love songs because they wanna be hard, heavy and tough guys, maybe that's why they don't sing about love stories, I don't know.

MetalKings.com: OK. You know, I think that many German metal bands are quite different from American bands or those from other countries because their music, I guess, is based on classical melodies. What's your opinion?

Markus: That might be true. Obviously from the States there are mostly nu metal bands like Linkin Park, Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit and whatever... And that's the big trend in the States at the moment and I think a lot of German bands don't follow this trend that comes from the States because there are obviously bands like us, like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Kreator or whatever who are doing their thing throughout their whole career and they don't look what's big in the States at the moment and they do not follow these trends. I think that's a pretty good thing that you don't try to copy other stuff that maybe more successful than what you do, and you just stay true to what you believe and play the music you really like. And that's a pretty good thing, I guess.

MetalKings.com: Right. Well, who will produce the new album?

Markus: Charlie Bauerfeind. He's the guy who already worked with us on "Nightfall", he was one of the engineers on the album and he already produced the "Mirror Mirror" single. So he's gonna produce the whole stuff right now.

MetalKings.com: As far as I understand this time Piet Sielck from Iron Savior is not involved in the production...

Markus: No, he isn't.

MetalKings.com: And why?

Markus: I guess that's just the question of timing. As far as I know he's pretty busy with Iron Savior, they are already in the studio writing songs for the new album so they wouldn't be any free time. I mean, the whole production for the new album started about 13 (!) months ago so if he would have been involved in this production they wouldn't be any time left for Iron Savior, it doesn't make any sense. If he works for us he has to focus on the things he does for us and I guess he's busy enough doing his own thing so there's no Piet anymore.

MetalKings.com: I've heard that you were going to participate in the soundtrack to the "Lord Of The Rings" movie...

Markus: No, that's unfortunately not true. I mean, there have been so many rumors about it. The fact is that when everybody heard that there will be another film about the "Lord Of The Rings", the first real movie about it, there have been tons of fans on the Internet having voting about who should be writing the soundtrack. And we won a lot of those votings. So we got in contact to the guys producing the film but in the end they went to one of the big and well-known soundtrack composers, and they didn't take us. So a lot of people keep asking us, 'Are you doing the soundtrack? Are you gonna be involved?' And our answer is, 'No, we are not.' I mean we really wanted to do it, but it didn't happen.

MetalKings.com: Well, as far as I know for several past years you were thinking about doing your own album based on "Lord Of The Rings". So is it true?

Markus: That is true. We have written a couple of songs which are totally untypical for us, it's no metal music, it's more or less based on classical stuff and lyricalwise it's totally based on "Lord Of The Rings". The music would perfectly fit for the movie but we didn't write it for the movie on purpose, we wrote those songs even before we knew that there would be another movie. And if we finish that project one time it's definitely gonna be released but we can't say if it would be the next album or the one after the next, it's just our kind of side project, it's a long-term one but we are working on those songs besides the usual recordings of Blind Guardian stuff. And it's definitely gonna be released one day whenever that is. (laughs)

MetalKings.com: I see that all of you are big fans of fantasy stuff like Tolkien, etc. What are your favorite writers apart from him?

Markus: Oh, there are tons of writers. I mean, I really like Michael Murcock...

MetalKings.com: "Eternal Hero", I guess...

Markus: Yes, all of his stuff, and I like Benjamin Forster (not sure about the spelling - ed.), his stuff is great. And at the moment I'm reading a lot of books of David Eddings who also did a lot of great fantasy stories. I mean it's our kind of stuff, Hansi and me are reading really a lot so we're trying everything. (laughs)

MetalKings.com: Let's talk about inspirations... What bands inspired you to create such an original style?

Markus: There are many bands. Queen is definitely one of the biggest influences concerning all those choir arrangements and all those harmony stuff and other music elements but there are also bands for example like Jethro Tull that were big influence on us, those folkloristic influences, for example. So there are different bands. I mean, when we started back in the late 1980s obviously bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica maybe... When we were doing "Follow The Blind" we were listening to a lot of thrash metal bands like Testament or Forbidden and maybe that's why "Follow The Blind" was a little bit heavier (laughs), but definitely today it's bands like Queen or Queensryche...

MetalKings.com: More progressive music, I guess...

Markus: Yes.

MetalKings.com: You also covered a song by Satan ("Trial By Fire"), it was on the "Somewhere Far Beyond" album...

Markus: Yes, this band haven't really been an influence on us but during all the time we've been covering songs we really liked and it was just one of them. For example, we did the Demon cover of "Don't Break The Circle" on the "Follow The Blind" album. I mean, Demon was always one of our favorite bands, we also did stuff from Deep Purple, we did a Queen cover. So Satan definitely wasn't an influence on us but we really liked the band, and we really loved that song. That's why we said, 'OK, let's cover it'. That was cool, I mean, we have been on tour in 1995 together with Skyclad. So the guys from Skyclad originally were in Satan and we played it live together with them on one show, it was fun.

MetalKings.com: You see, Hansi has a side project with Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth, I mean, Demons & Wizards. So have you ever thought about your own side project?

Markus: I might do something in the future but it's definitely not planned at the moment. If I might write songs that wouldn't fit the Blind Guardian stuff, for example, I might release them as a side project but there's nothing of it planned at the moment. So that Demons & Wizards idea they had from 1991 when we played with Iced Earth for the first time. I mean, we're really good friends with Iced Earth, and Jon and Hansi always wanted to write songs together. They talked about it for years and one day they just started writing stuff. So Demons & Wizards was the result of it but, like I said, at the moment as least I don't plan anything. We're just focusing on finishing the new album and we'll be on tour for the whole next year, so in the moment there isn't any time for anything (laughs), no room for any side projects.

MetalKings.com: Another thing about covers... The song "Mr. Sandman" originally came from the 1950s or 1960s I guess...

Markus: 1950s I guess (laughs) We all knew that song and we sometimes like covering that kind of stuff. Like we also did with Beach Boys stuff, it's just fun to play songs that are really different to the stuff we normally play. I mean, when we cover songs from Satan or from Demon it's basically metal songs played by metal bands so it's fun to play this totally different stuff.

MetalKings.com: Yeah, for example, the Beach Boys song was completely unfitting to your style...

Markus: Well, but it was totally fun. This happened by accident to be honest. I mean, after finishing one of the rehearsals for "Follow The Blind" we started jamming on this guitar riff and Hansi started singing those vocals, we played the song for about half an hour (laughs) and thought, 'Hey, we gotta record it!' And Kalle, he loved the idea also and we said, 'Okey, let's give it a try, record it and see what happens' and we played it live for a thousand times and everybody is totally going nuts on that song, so it's great, it's fun to play something totally different.

MetalKings.com: Yeah, you know, it's like with Gamma Ray who played a cover-version of Pet Shop Boys. It was also quite strange...

Markus: Yeah, that's cool. I mean, sometimes it's really great to play something that hasn't any connection to metal. Obviously when a metal band plays another metal song it's nothing really special. I mean, it's fun to play your favorite songs but it's also fun to do anything that hasn't anything to do with your normal style like Beach Boys stuff or Mike Oldfield stuff or whatever we did. It's fun...

MetalKings.com: Well, another thing concerning the history of German metal is that in the early 1990s there was a thing called German Rock Project. Do you know about it?

Markus: I don't know anything about it. What is that supposed to be?

MetalKings.com: Well, many German bands like Gamma Ray, Pink Cream 69, Casanova, etc. gathered together to record a song called "Let Love Conquer The World". Did you get any invitations to participate in it?

Markus: To be honest I'm hearing it for the first time at the moment. (laughs) Nobody invited us and no, I didn't know anything about it. (laughs)

MetalKings.com: (laughs) So maybe Kai Hansen knows anything about it...

Markus: I'll ask him when I see him the next time. (laughs)

MetalKings.com: OK. Another thing about the new album is will there be any special guests?

Markus: Besides Oliver who played the bass, no. There's no Kai or anybody. We always have guest musicians on the album for the choirs, for example, but they are the same guys that sang on other albums we ever did. So there's nothing special, we just got Oliver playing the bass, we got one of the guys who is with us on tour playing the keyboards and that's it.

MetalKings.com: You know, there's not too many video information about Blind Guardian out there. Do you have plans to release a live video or a video history of the band?

Markus: At the moment we did just video clips, I guess. We did three videos for the "Imaginations" album, we did the video for "Mr. Sandman", one for "Born In The Mourning Hall" and one for "Bright Eyes" and for the last album we did the clip for "Mirror Mirror". There will also be a video clip for the new album but we don't know for which song at the moment, we're still talking about that but it will definitely happen. And I'm pretty sure we will release a live video, I don't know if it will be on this tour or the next one or whenever but one day there will be a live video or DVD or whatever. At present there are no plans for it but we are talking about another live album, maybe for the next tour. We're still talking about it, if we might record a couple of shows... We will probably also film them, we'll see. It's too early to tell about it at the moment.

MetalKings.com: Oh, about the live album. I think your "Tokyo Tales" was one of the best German metal live albums ever, very strong, powerful and bombastic...

Markus: Thank you very much. (laughs) You know, a lot of fans are asking about the new album so that's why we're talking about maybe doing another one. So if we do it we might film a couple of shows, maybe there's gonna be the whole package next time.

MetalKings.com: Well, the recent trend in the music world is to release several versions of albums. I mean, one with a bonus track, another in a digipack or boxed version. So do you have any bonus tracks for the new album?

Markus: Not really. I think those bonus tracks are OK if you release them on the first version. That's okay if you do it like this but it's just a fan rip-off when you just release and album and re-release it two months later with two new songs and maybe another version as a box set. It's just a rip-off because obviously the die-hard fans will buy every version to have all tracks. I mean, there are several versions of our albums with bonus tracks in South and North America. But they were released later, for example, "Nightfall" was released in South America one year after it was published worldwide. And "Imaginations" and "Somewhere Far Beyond" were released there years after they were released in the rest of the world so they put a couple of tracks from "Forgotten Tales", for example. In fact, we are not big fans of special editions, like I said before, it's okay if you do it as the first version, so it's 'buy it now with bonus tracks' or 'buy a regular version later'.

MetalKings.com: At the same time Japanese editions always have traditional bonus tracks, I guess...

Markus: The problem is that CDs in Japan are very expensive...

MetalKings.com: ...about 30 dollars, I guess...

Markus: Yeah, and sometimes even higher. And the imported albums are cheaper than the official Japanese releases. People in Japanese record companies are really afraid that the Japanese fans can buy imported versions instead of official Japanese ones and that's why they ask for bonus tracks or special editions or whatever. Some bands are doing special bonus tracks for the Japanese market but at the moment I can say that there won't be any special bonus tracks on our new album in Japan.

MetalKings.com: Does it mean that you have no outtakes from the album?

Markus: No, there are some, but most of the songs we did during the "Nightfall" sessions and they are not released yet. Maybe we will release them on singles but there are no plans at the moment. Besides the album will be very long, it's about 70 minutes of music so there's no really need for another bonus track. (laughs)

MetalKings.com: I have always wanted to ask German musicians about their opinion on guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen. So what do you think of him?

Markus: During the previous tour we played together with Skyclad, we were headlininig, the whole thing was called Christmas Metal Meetings, and other bands were touring with us, and Yngwie Malmsteen was one of them. I must say he's a very nice guy, a great guitar hero but I do not prefer guitar heroes, I like normal songs and not just guitar solos. Though Yngwie has great songs, he has always had great vocalists, his 'normal' songs are good but his soloing stuff is too much for me. I prefer easier songs.

MetalKings.com: As far as I know the "Tokyo Tales" album was recorded in Tokyo and you did two shows. One of them was released and from the second one you took "Lord Of The Rings" as a bonus track. Is it true?

Markus: Yes it is.

MetalKings.com: So why wasn't the song released on a regular version?

Markus: Yes, we recorded two shows from Tokyo, then checked the tapes and thought that we played better on one of them. I mean, that was the best day recordingwise that's why we took all those songs aside and only "Lord Of The Rings" was used from that show. The "Lord Of The Rings" version we did on the other day was pretty cool so we said, 'Well, let's take it as a bonus track or whatever and keep the other show'.

MetalKings.com: Markus, may I ask some personal questions?

Markus: Go ahead!

MetalKings.com: It was a very popular rock'n'roll topic in the 1980s, I mean, the grouppies. Do they exist on the German music scene? You know, there's almost no information about it.

Markus: Yes, they exist. I guess, they exist not only in Germany, they exist all over the world but I don't know what they were like in the middle or in early 1980s. They really exist but not that many as lots of people think...

MetalKings.com: ... it was I guess the motto of the 1980s like 'sex, drugs, rock'n'roll'...

Markus: Yeah, that's true.

MetalKings.com: ...but as far as I know it's not typical for the German scene...

Markus: That's like I said before, I guess it's not typical for any country's scene. That's the typical rock'n'roll cliche, that 'sex, drugs, rock'n'roll' or whatever. I mean, we don't have anything to do with the grouppies, nobody in the band uses any drugs, maybe a glass of red wine before the show. I think we couldn't stand the tour if we'd be partying all day. I mean, if we do this for a couple of days afterwards we won't be able to play another show. So life can be tough on the road, I guess. You have to be very civilized to stand it. I mean, the last tour we did, well, for "Nightfall", we were on the road for almost eight months and you can't stand it for such a long time if we try to party and have fun all day.

MetalKings.com: Another personal question is are you all in the band married or have children?

Markus: Three of us are married, so Hansi, me and Thomen are married. Hansi and I have kids. So, I have a son which will be six years old by the end of the year and Hansi's son was born about two or three months ago.

MetalKings.com: Does the life of a musician with recordings and tours affect your families?

Markus: I mean, when you're away from home for a long time that's difficult, of course. The good thing is we don't have extensive tours, we're not on the road for such a long time. So usually we start the tour with one block for three to four weeks and then will be home for a couple of days, head for Spain for another week, come home for another week and then go to wherever... But there's always a kind of short period when we're away, we come back for a week or two and we're not apart from our families for at least that long time. Especially for the kids it's very hard, so it's a kind of job.

MetalKings.com: You know, a very important thing about Blind Guardian is that since first days of the band you have stayed together and had no line-up changes. Do you really have no conflicts or clashes within the band?

Markus: Of course, we have a lot of conflicts like any other band but we try to solve them by talking about them instead of firing just one guy. If you can't solve problems by talking you have a big problem anyway. You can fire someone, take another guy into the band and have the same problem with him a week later. So it doesn't make sense to change line-ups all day. I mean, we know each other for so many years so we can work together, we're very good friends so there's no reason to change the line-up.

MetalKings.com: And the guys who played on demos, are they still in music business?

Markus: Yes, they are. Markus Dork is still playing, he's a good friend of Andre, so they're in pretty close contact. He has his own band but as far as I know it's no metal band, they're a kind of Marillion stuff. And the other guy Christof, he's still playing in a metal band. They're all from Kreffeld and they are called Metal Kids. So they're also doing a kind of melodic speed metal I think.

MetalKings.com: So thanks a lot Markus for this interview, it was really great, like a dream come true for me, really!

Markus: You're welcome any time.

MetalKings.com: And I hope we will see you in Russia some other time...

Markus: There are talks about that at the moment. There's nothing confirmed yet but we might play two shows in Russia. So as soon as we got those dates confirmed we'll publish them on our homepage or wherever so it might happen this time.

MetalKings.com: So until next time!

Markus: Keep in contact with us. Thank you.

-- Dead Ripper
MetalKings.com


***
The authors would like to express their gratitude to Olga Karpovich & Gala Records for the assistance in organizing this interview.

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