Blind Guardian
Interview with: Blind Guardian guitarist Marcus Siepen

Blind Guardian logo

Blind Guardian has been around doing legendary heavy-power metal for more than 20 years and will probably continue exploring new territories within Middle earth and beyond for the next 20 years.
The band was formed back in 1984, with a follow-up debut album "Battalions of fear" release in 1988; their newest album, "A Twist in the myth" is duo to be released this September after four years with no studio album (since 2002's massively orchestrated "A night in the opera") but with a successful live album (2003's "Live!) and an even better DVD in 2004 ("Imaginations Through The Looking Glass") and marks a new stage in this band's existence.
Masrcus Siepen, who along with André Olbrich does guitars in the band, has been with BG from the times before their first album, back when the band was called "Lucifer's Hammer" and was kind and willing to answer some questions.

Blind Guardian - Battalions of fear

Hi Marcus, how are you doing? What have you been doing lately?
Doing a lot of interviews *laughs*, I just came back from a vacation yesterday, I had three weeks of vacation, had three weeks off and after finishing the mix of the album we'll start getting some heavy promotion… we already played a couple of shows, warm-up shows so far. We did a video, which is not completely finished yet, recording the video is done and we're supposed to get the first edit this week so we can talk about and re-edit it. Well, in the moment, as you can see, we're doing a lot of interviews *laughs*.

For which song is the video for?
"Another stranger me", it's also gonna be the second single from "A twist in the myth".

Are you planning to have any major or headlining tours soon?
Yes, as I said we already played a couple of warm-up shows, and in two weeks we're gonna headline two big festivals in Spain… it's like one festival taking place in two different cities on three days; we're gonna headline a Saturday show in one city and in the other city the Sunday show – so I think it's 20 to 25 thousand people each day.
And then the main tour for Blind Guardian, the next Blind Guardian world tour is going to kick off in early September and will keep us on the road until the end of next year.

How does all the touring and being in Blind Guardian in general combine with having a family (I've seen on your website that you're all married and some of you have children)?
Well, all of us have kids now… of course it's difficult because, obviously, you're switching between two extremes. When we're not on tour that means we're actually home all day long, everybody can work at home – we all have out little studios at home, the main BG studio in which we also record our albums is just 15 minutes away from here so it's very comfortable, also for our families because we are home all the time… when it comes to touring, and also before when the promotion starts we travel around to do interviews or video shoots, then we're gone all the time. It's not easy for our families, but you know, it is part of their job and they learn to live with it, they come with us on tour sometimes…obviously they can't come with us during the whole tour, because this tour for example will last for about one and a half years and for example my son is ten years old so he has to go to school, he can't come with me, he can come with me if it's in vacations or if we play here in this area of course all the families come or if we play some festivals that are not too far away sometimes they come with us; the contact is limited in those periods but there's not real way to work around it because as a band you have to go on tour and it's a part of being in that job, in this business.

What can you tell me about the new album "A twist in the myth"? How was the writing process?
The writing process was pretty much like every other writing process before; after "A night at the opera" we were thinking about how to go on and one thing that is always an aim for us is whenever we start writing new songs is that we don't want to repeat ourselves, and especially in this one; "A night at the opera" was very complex, there was a lot of different instrumentations going on, it was very bit, very epic, and we kind of knew that couldn't go on in that direction… especially in the song "and then there was silence" –everything was done in that direction – we didn't know how we should possibly top that song if we carry to go on in the same way. So we pretty early knew that we wanted to go in a completely different way and the result is "A Twist in the Myth", which is much more focused to the point…there's less choirs, less classical instrumentation, less harmony guitar stuff. The songs themselves even got a bit shorter, even though this wasn't planned on purpose it really just happened like this.
It's a kind of bridge between old Blind Guardian and actually new Blind Guardian because there are a lot of new influences and we also continued things that we started on the last album; it's a kind of mixture between past and, not even present, I would say future.

What is the work distribution between you guys?
It's everybody can do whatever he wants to do, the main songwriters are André (Olbrich, Guitarist) and Hansi (Kürsch, Vocalist), Hansi is in charge of all the lyrics and his vocal melodies, André does most of the music – but everybody can write as much as he wants, for example there will be a song from me on the album too, not really on the album but it's gonna be on the next single, it's gonna be a bonus track in some countries. But it's not that for example André is the only one allowed to write music, it just happened to be that he became the main songwriter, everybody can do whatever he wants to do.

How was the recording process?
It was smooth… as a result of getting more to the point in the songwriting the actual recording went much smoother and quicker compared to last time, we did all the recordings and the mix within a bit more than half a year which is pretty fast for a Blind Guardian album; "A Night at the Opera" took us about 14 months, it was too long, much too long. So everything was fine, we didn't have any technical problems or anything, the only thing that set us back for a while was when Hansi got sick shortly before finishing the recording, he had some problems with his hearing again, he's got a pretty bad flew at the same time which made it impossible for him to continue singing so he had to take a break for about four weeks, and that was the reason why we had to move the release date of the album because originally it was planned to be released around this time. But we we're pretty tough on this, on a pretty tight schedule, and when we sew that Hansi had to take a break for some time we knew that we couldn't keep that deadline and that why we decided to move the release to September.

Did anything funny or unusual happen during the process?
There were no technical problems, that's very unusual…normally all the technical stuff blow up, the computer dies or whatever, and this time everything was just smooth so that was nice for a change.

Have you preformed with the new materials yet?
Just with the stuff that's on the single, so as I said we played four shows so far, four warm up shows, and we played "Fly" and "Skalds and Shadows". We didn't play any other new songs yet because the album is just not released yet and it doesn't really make sense to play new songs that nobody knows, so the setlist for the concerts will change when the real tour starts because then the album is gonna be released and then and then we can play more songs from the new album.

How did the crowd take the new songs?
So far the reactions have been very very good, especially "Fly" which is a song that most people wouldn't have expected from us because it's rather untypical for Blind Guardian.
That was one of the goals we had, because it would be too easy and too boring to just release the typical song that everybody expects, so we decided to rather go for the untypical one, to show people what they can also expect from Blind Guardian.
The reactions have been very good, also after the concerts, and it is fun playing them and fun to see the fans going nuts to them, like the do with the old songs, so it works perfectly fine so far.

Why did you decide to cover Iron Butterfly's "In a gadda da vida"?
There were a couple of songs that we thought about playing for a long time, and this is one of those songs. It's a song that everybody in the band always liked very much; it's a song that has to be played heavy, this whole riff is the perfect metal riff. We just wanted to try to re-arrange it into a kind of Blind Guardian song. We just tried, liked the result and decided to do it.

You mentioned the second single, is there gonna be another cover there?
There might be another cover, we're not too sure yet if we're gonna use it for that singe but yes, we recorded another cover.

What can your fans expect to get in "A twist in the myth"?
In our opinion it's the perfect bridge between old and new so they can expect back to the roots vibes that haven't been there on the last ones, plus of course we tried to explore new territories, to involve new elements into our style, as people can hear on the single, everybody should just check it out and hopefully enjoy it.

Out of BG's past albums, which one is your favorite?
Oh, that's difficult to answer… it changes rather often, people sometimes ask "what's your favorite BG song?" and it's not really possible for me to answer this because if you ask me now I will pick one, in this case one album, and if you ask me tomorrow I might give toy a different answer, it just depends on the present mood. Umm.. I love the new album because it's the perfect mix of past and present, but concerning the old albums, at the moment, I would pick "Somewhere far beyond". Ask me the same question tomorrow and you'll get a different answer, that's really tricky to answer.

What albums are you currently listening to?
Different stuff, I'm listening to the new Amorphis album "Eclipse" a lot, which I like very much, I love the last Opeth) album ("Ghost Reveries"), I like the last two System of a down albums ("Mezmerize"/ "Hypnotize") very much, I like the last Nevermore a lot, all kinds for thing, lots of different thing, I like the last Orphaned Land album…there's a lot of stuff… As I said, I just came back from a vacation and I was listening to a lot of old Fates Warning stuff.

What do you think about the whole "Power metal revival" wave of bands (Masterplan, Firewind ect.)?
It's the same like with any other wave; there are some bands that I like a lot, there are some that I don't like at all; there are always good bands that set a kind of trend, there will be a lot of bands trying to copy them - the good bands will survive, like Masterplan that you mentioned and I like them a lot, I think their first album - I liked, and the second album – I love, it's a brilliant album. I think they set a kind of trend, I'm pretty sure they will survive.
There are a lot of bands that try to copy those kinds of "trend setters" and those bands will fade away, like it was with every other wave before; it was like this when there was this new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM), it was like this when Grunge started, there were some real big bands and 3- billion copies, it was like this when the whole death and black metal thing came; it's the typical kind of development- there are good band, there are bad bands and the good ones will stay and the bad ones will fade away.

In your opinion as a guitarist - which guitar riff or solo is the best ever written?
Oh, god… that's difficult, there's so many brilliant stuff around, and concerning solos one of my biggest heroes about this has always been Michael Schenker (former Scorpions and UFO legendary guitarist) with what he did with M.S.G (Michael Schenker Group) back in the early 80's, and also all this harmony stuff that Thin Lizzy did back then is something I've always loved, and concerning riffs obviously Black Sabbath are one of those big bands, also stuff that Metallica used to do back then; I love Zakk Wylde, he's a brilliant guitarist, but you know…again, it's impossible for me to pick one song to say "Hey, that's THE guitar riff" because there so much good stuff out there, it would be just unfair to pick one and forget about the rest.

Which musicians inspired you to become a musician?
I started playing guitar when I was 10 or something like that, and it was about the same time when I started listening to metal and back then my heroes were early Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Rainbow), Kiss and all those bands…and they were the reason why I wanted to be in a band too, and some years later I found my first band and *laughs* I'm still playing, somehow it worked *laughs*.

What's the best tip you can give beginners?
Try to be original. Whenever people start a band it's normal that you're influenced by your idols in the beginning, it was like this with us and it's like this with everybody, but the most important advice I can give to any band out there is try to create your own style and don't copy your idols or whoever else, because the copy will always be worse than the original; just try to come up with something on your own to be unique… I love it when I can hear a song from a band and I can immediately tell "yeah, that's this band", if they have something so unique about themselves that I just need to hear a couple of seconds and I can immediately tell "yeah, that's them"; it can be all kinds of bands… I mentioned Zakk Wylde, I can hear a couple of seconds of him playing guitar and I know it's him or a band like Queen for example, who did all kinds of different songs, they had very heavy songs, they had just pop songs, they had epic stuff- they had all kinds of ting but just play a couple of seconds and I will be able to tell "yeah, that's Queen", of course Queen is one of the biggest and best bands that there has ever been but it's something that every band and every beginner should try to reach one day, to define your own style and get rid of…well, not get rid of your influences, everybody has influences and they'll always be there, but try to turn them into something new, something that's your own. That's the most important thing about making music in my opinion, not just copying anybody else and chasing some trends.

Which artists would you have liked to work with if you were given the chance?
Again, there are a lot of people… I would love to do something with Brian May (Queen guitarist) for example, it would be a dream, or working with Pink Floyd *laughs* will obviously always stay a dream… there are a lot of things…I've always been a huge fan of old Fates Warning, specially when they still had John Arch singing ('82-'87), it would be great to do something with him.

Where do you get inspiration for writing from?
Oh, from everywhere…An album that I'm listening to today can inspire me, it's not that I listen to a song and say "yeah, that's great, I will copy this" but it can just give some input to your mind, to get new fresh ideas, it's more like listening to not really to what they play like but how other bands achieve certain sounds or certain moods that they create with their songs; influences can be everything around me, something that I see on TV or that I read on the internet or the newspaper, that I can hear on the radio- all those things can be an influence, everything that's going on around us, whatever happens today might be an influence.

What books are you currently reading? What place do books take in your or the band's writing process?
Books are always something that inspires us; obviously Hansi takes a lot of inspiration from books for his lyrics, and books like the "Lord of the rings" also inspired us for a lot of music so books are important for us. All of us love to read all kinds of different stories, and…as I said, everything around us can be an influence, definitely something like a good book that makes you enter a completely different world, this can be a huge inspiration; wherever we go to there's always books with us, so that's an internal inspiration that will always stay.

Some musicians, who are already in a band, release solo material – do you think you'll release solo records?
I don't know, it might happen one day in case I start writing songs that don't fit to Blind Guardian, because then it would make sense to say "Ok, I wrote ten songs and they don't sound like Blind Guardian at all so I can't use them for my main band, so let's meet with some friends", a lot of my friends are musicians too so it would be easy to get some people together to records it; but as long as the stuff that I write perfectly fits BG there's no reason to do a solo album. I'm not saying that I will never do it, it might happen in case I come up with ideas that don't fit. As long as things fit there's no reason for me to do things beside the band.

On your highschool reunion, what would you like people to remember you by?
That's trick…*laughs*…I hope they would remember me as being a nice person, a good person, it doesn't really matter to me if anybody remembers that I'm the guy that is in Blind Guardian, I just hope that my friends will always think of me as their friend and as being a good person, which I try to be. That matters more to me than any fame I might have with BG.

What questions do you dislike being asked in interviews the most?
The question I hate the most is the final one, like "is there anything left you'd like to tell our readers/listeners", I talked to other musicians about this and everybody agrees with me because whenever you are asked this question, right in that moment, you never know what to say *laughs*… so I guess that's the question that I hate most, and there is another question that I hate as much, I started to hate it as much since "Nightfall in middle earth" people ask us what we think about the "Lord of the rings" movies; I answered this question a million times already, but still people keep asking me this. I'm just getting fed up with it. But besides this, every question is perfectly ok to me.

Is there a venue or city you haven't played yet and wish to play there?
Oh, yes, I can't tell you any venues because if we didn't got there before I don't know the venues, but there are definitely a lot of places we never played yet that we want to go there; it's gonna happen a lot on this tour, there will be a lot of places we didn't play before, there's a chance of us going to Australia, there are gonna be a lot of South-American countries on the list where we didn't play before, there's gonna be some more Eastern-European countries – actually every country that we didn't play yet is more than welcome, going to a place for the first time is always very special for us because you just don't know what to expect; if for example we play in Germany or Spain or wherever place that we played a couple of times before we kinda know how people will react, you get to know how they'll react to old songs, to new songs, whatever…but if you go to a place where you've never been before you have no idea what's gonna happen, it's always very very very interesting for us to see the responses in those places, it's not even just about playing the concert but also about exploring the places, doing some site-seeing if we have the time, meeting people and talking to them – we love this. So there are tons of places that we still have to go to.

Which country has the best crowd in your opinion?
It's also not really possible to say "this country has the best crowd" because people just react different in certain countries, like people in Japan for example are much calmer compared to crowds in Brazil, Spain or southern Europe in general but it doesn't mean that they are the worst crowds, in Japan, it's just that the mentality is completely different so you can't really compare it; obviously for a band, if we go on stage start playing and everybody goes completely nuts. This feedback of energy that happens between the crowd and the band is perfect – it's what makes a show really special; if there's this constant exchange of energy between band and crowd this is what gives magic to some shows. It's not really possible to say "this is the best city for Blind Guardian" or even "this is the best country for Blind Guardian", it would not be fair to all the other countries; every country has something special about it.

The Israeli crowd is pretty energetic – have you considered playing here in Israel?
We'd love to play there, so far we didn't have any chance but there might be a chance on this tour, the only dates that are confirmed so far is everything that's gonna happen this year; which will start in Europe in September, we're gonna be in Europe for about seven weeks and then we're going to the US for another six weeks, and then we have a break for Christmas and New Year. After this a lot more will happen, January is planned that we'll go to south-east Asia and maybe Australia, then we go back to south and middle America, then we come back to Europe so everything's open – we would love to play there, for sure.

Do you have any bands you're in contact with and prefer touring or performing with?
We have a lot of bands we're friends with, the bands that we toured with so far like Nevermore, Iced Earth, Rage and Kreator, there are a lot of bands that we keep meeting on tour or on festivals, for example in Spain we're gonna meet Saxon again, they opened up for us on some tours. There are a lot of band, and it's not that we talk all the time or send each other emails but we keep meeting our friends on tour and have a good time hanging out with them, it's just fun.

Let's go back to the past, How did you start being in Blind Guardian?
The band was formed as most other bands I guess. André and Hansi me each other at school and both of them were playing in different band but were both unhappy with them,
So they decided to form a new band together which was a band called "Lucifer's Heritage" which later turned into Blind Guardian, it was actually the same band just with a different name. They got some other people to play in the band; I at the same time had my own band which I was not that happy with and at some point André was asking me if I would like to join "Lucifer's Heritage" because they had problems with their other guitar player. We jammed a bit together, and well…since then I joined "Lucifer's Heritage", after sometime we recorded some demos, got a record deal and changed our name to Blind Guardian because a lot of people were thinking we would be doing black metal, which we never did, the music was kinda the same that ended up on "Battalions of fear" so we were just aware of the fact we should change our name and the rest is history.

How did you choose the name?
It wasn't a long decision; actually we did it while recording the first album, there was a lot of pressure because we didn't have much time to think about the new name so basically what we did was whenever somebody was not recording he sat down with a big piece of paper and wrote down all kinds of names that came to his mind, and in the evening we all met in the studio's kitchen and ran through the lists trying to find the right name; Blind Guardian was an idea that I think Hansi had, we had the song "Guardian of the blind", he just twisted the words a bit and formed them into Blind Guardian, and well… in the end we decided for that one because we liked it most. There's no special meaning or message behind that name, it's just that we though sounded best, it fit best to our kind of music, and well… I think, looking back on 20 years using that name it was a good idea.*laughs*

Do you have any other memorable moment you have from the early days?
Lots, there have been so many special moments… going to a professional studio and recording the very first album was so magical for us, we were just kind of a small band that used to play in our rehearsal room and we recorded some demos in this very tiny studio - and then suddenly entering a real studio & recording a real album was pure magic for us.
It was the same with going on tour for the first time, the very first tour that we did was small…maybe ten days in Germany or something like it, but we were on the road - we had a nightliner with beds to sleep in, it was like cruising through the whole country – it was great. Later when we suddenly started to play outside of Germany, going to other countries, going around this planet. Like when we went to Japan in '92 for the first time, traveling to the other side of this planet – it was a trip. There are so many experiences from that time, very good and strong memories, it was great.

Do you think you've learnt any lessons for life along your way with BG?
For sure, all the experiences that we made – nobody can take them from us. We had the chance to travel around this world several times, to see so many places that most likely without being in this band I would have never seen those places in my life. We got to know about so many different cultures, so many different people to talk to and exchange opinions about whatever – these definitely were lifetime experiences. It changes you, it makes you grow as a person for sure; to be able to travel around the word and get all those impressions is priceless. It's one of those aspects that I love about being in this band, we have the chance to travel around the world and always explore new places, new cultures, talk to new people – I love it, it's brilliant.

What do you think about today's metal? The whole metalcore wave…
This metalcore thing for me is just a another wave that is here now and will be gone soon, there might be some bands who'll survive just like there are always some survivors from these kind of waves, but I don't see the big hype around this metalcore thing because for me it's basically a kind of rip-off of Swedish death metal bands… if I listen to most of those metalcore bands they sound like Soilwork rip-offs to me; it's not that different from the music that bands like Soilwork, In Flames or Dark Tranquillityplays for several years, and suddenly it's the big thing – It's "Metalcore from America" – crap no, it's not, it's poppy of something that exists on Europe for several years already. So I don't really get the whole hype. There might be some good bands…but I'm pretty much into the original…I really like bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork, Hypocrisy- this Swedish kind of death metal, melodic death metal, I really like this stuff and that's the original for me. All those American bands that come up now are just a copy, without even admitting that they're a copy. They claim to be the big thing now and I just don't get it *sighs*.
They are the big thing at the moment and next year nobody will talk about them anymore.

What do you think is gonna be the next wave?
I have no idea, I'm no prophet, I don't know *laughs*… it might be anything, it might be the revival of something that has been done before. When bands like Hammerfall and all those bands came up it was a kind of revival of that kind of metal that we started in the 80's; now there's this metalcore thing which is just a copy of what the Scandinavians death metal bands started in the 90's… I have no idea… maybe Grunge is coming back.

Do you do any artistic things that are not music?
I can play guitar and I can play computer games, those are two things I can do very very well. So besides music I'm not very creative, my girlfriend is a very talented painter and when I watch her painting things that amazing but I could never do something like this, I'm not very talented in this. I tried it once, she taught me how to do some things but I'm a hopeless case in this.

Oh, you're into computer games… have you tried the new "Heroes V" game?
No, not yet… the problem is that since I bought "World Of Warcraft" I didn't play anything else, I'm completely hooked and lost in this game. I bought some other games after World of Warcraft, I installed them, I tried them for about 20 minutes, and said "yeah, great game, but now I wanna play World of Warcraft". So I'm completely lost.

I'm gonna ask one of those questions you're no so fond of – do you have any message to the fans?
*laughs* Yes, please, I want all our fans to get mails asking never to ask this question again.
I understand that a lot of people ask this question and what I can answer is that I thank all our fans for the support that we got over all those years, ad that I hope that we can play for all of you one day, that we could go to all the places that we didn't go to yet and I hope we will meet all those people one day.
This is the only thing I can say, as I said I hate this question *laughs* but at least this answer is true; I don't have to invent it or anything… I really appreciate the support we got from all our fans over those years and that we hope that we can play all those places one day, hopefully on this tour already.

Thank you for the interview and the good time, and I hope to see you in Israel sometime soon. I wish you and the band all the best.
As I said, we would like to come and there is good chance of this so…I'm optimistic. Sooner or later we'll for sure make it. I wish you a very nice evening and I hope we meet on tour someday.

Ofer Vayner
Share |
blog comments powered by Disqus