On their recent tour, Blind Guardian played their 1995 Album “Imaginations From The Other Side” as a whole. Reason enough to stalk rhythm guitar Player Marcus Siepen at the Show in Rijssen / Netherlands.
Your tour for “Beyond the Red Mirror” is almost finished. What is your conclusion?
“It was the longest and most successful tour we have done so far. We played in a couple of countries we haven’t been yet and that was big fun. We played for the first time in Taiwan and Belarus and also in 2 more countries in South America. Now we have been touring for 21 months already, but now we are glad to be home again soon.”
Are there any songs on “Beyond the Red Mirror” you wanted to play live, but you couldn’t?
“I would like to play every song of the album live. Until now we have studied five of them and we also performed them. We hadn’t enough time during our rehearsals to learn more and I also think that five new tracks are enough for one tour. There are also a lot of classics we have to play and we also like to play some tracks we haven’t done for a while. Our shows are usually quite long, 2 – 2,5 hours, but they actually have to end at some point.”
In our last interview, you announced that you will also play some rarities. In that interview, I also asked you to name your favourites from all of your albums. I named songs like ‘Follow the Blind’, ‘Noldor’ and ‘Battlefield’. All of those songs are never or just rarely performed live. Wouldn’t it have been an option to integrate some of these tracks into your set?
“Yes, it would have been an option. Two of the tracks were in our rehearsal set, but we had to kick them out. We only play songs live if we are 100% satisfied with the performance. It is for example extremely difficult to perform ‘Battlefield’ live. The vocals have a wide variation from very low to very high. Therefore it is not an option to play the song a bit lower, because it would make the low vocals impossible to sing. We really would like to perform it live, but we don’t get it at a satisfying level. We played ‘Noldor’ live in the past, as well as ‘Follow the Blind’, which we played once in 1989. It is actually some time ago, haha! All of the tracks are options, but, as I told you already, we lack the time. We rehearsed 45 tracks for this tour and of them we played 18 – 20 every evening. It does not make sense to have more than 45 songs in our arsenal for a tour.”
Since the “A Night at the Opera” tour you have been working with a keyboard player on stage…
“No, already since “Imaginations From The Other Side”.”
Okay, that’s new to me. The numerous orchestral passages on your latest albums makes it necessary. What does this guy do during your old school songs?
“He’s singing choirs and headbanging, haha! There’s nothing more he has to do. I don’t think that he plays keys during a song like ‘Welcome to Dying’.
You truly have some indispensable classics in your setlist. Do you think that newer songs do also have the opportunity to become such a classic one day?
“Absolutely. I was really surprised how much our new songs were appreciated by our fans from the first moment. Normally the resonance for new songs is a bit weaker on the current tour and it grows with later tours. But songs like ‘Prophecies’ and ‘The Ninth Wave’ were fully accepted from the first show. I call them “instant classics”, which do not get different reactions than our older songs.”
My question has a background: There are only a few newer songs that could last longer in your setlist.
“’And then there was Silence’ is such an exception, but it has the disadvantage, that it blocks the slots of 3 normal songs. ‘Tanelorn’ and ‘Sacred’ have also been in our setlist since their release. You see, there are a couple of songs we do not play every time, but very, very often. ‘Wheel of Time’ is another example.”
You are right. However, I see a difference to indispensable songs like ‘Nightfall’, ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘The Bard’s Song’, songs you really play every evening.
“We have already played shows without ‘The Bard’s Song’. Also ‘Valhalla’ was kicked off the setlist a couple of times. Of course, songs like ‘The Bard’s Song’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’ do have another level than most other songs. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that we could also play a concert without them. Sometimes we kicked some of the indispensable classics, for whatever reason. Then you always see some question marks in the people’s eyes, but it also works.”
Let us stick to you classics: On your last shows, you played “Imaginations From The Other Side” as a whole. Why did you choose this album?
“We had this idea when we were preparing for the second leg of our US Tour. We were in the USA at the end of 2015, we returned in fall 2016 and we wanted to play a different set then. Therefore, we discussed different options. It was Andre and me who proposed to play the whole “Imaginations…”. It is the prequel to our current release and recently had its 20th anniversary. In addition, it was quite easy to do because we have played all of the songs before. We liked the idea and the feedback was great. From the point of time when we announced it, we were bombarded with messages from all over the world. The people requested to make a world tour with it, or, at least, to play in their cities. So it looks that the idea was not that stupid. Now I have to say that it is also a lot of fun to play the album from the beginning to the end. It has a nice flow and dynamic which makes a lot of fun and which simply works. So far, the feedback was great, no matter where we played.”
I saw many cameras at your recent show in Oberhausen / Germany. It seems as we could expect an “Imaginations from Oberhausen” DVD soon, right?
“No, haha! We had a camera team there, that’s right. But we don’t have a definite plan with the stuff.”
So what will you do with it?
“We collected a lot of stuff over the years and we certainly will release it sometime. But I can’t tell you yet in which form. We have a lot of audio material, because we recorded all of our shows in 2015 und 2016, and we will also record more shows. In 2017,we will definitely release a live album. We have much more stuff than we can put on it. But it is always important to have some stuff in your pocket. For whatever reason. I am sure that there will be a DVD or BluRay soon, but I don’t know when or of which show.”
It is actually quite easy to count your DVD releases so far…
“But it was awarded with gold, haha! We release some new stuff only when the old one was awarded, haha! No, seriously: We did the recordings on our own festival in 2003. Everything was right and went great at that time. On that festival, we could do whatever we wanted, because everything was focused on us. You do not have such opportunities, even when you play at Wacken as a headliner. You always have to make compromises. I am sure that we will do something in the future, but I can’t tell you when.”
So you need your own festival again!
“That’s definitely an option. We could do again whatever we want to, haha!”
Can you tell me already some details about your upcoming live album?
“It will only contain tracks we played on our current tour, of course. We have chosen a pool of 28 songs. Charly (Bauerfeind, producer of Blind Guardian) is mixing the tracks right now. But not all of the tracks will be on the album because it simply won’t fit. We try to put as many yet unreleased tracks as possible on it. But the final set list is not fixed yet. We will see it after the mixing how we can achieve the best flow. But I can tell you that I will be released in 2017 for sure. I am saying that because Hansi twisted the years in another interview.”
By recording every single show, you put a lot of work into it. There is only one other band that I know, that records all of their shows: Metallica. In contrast to you, they release all of the recorded shows as downloads. Wouldn’t that be an option for you as well?
“We thought about releasing some of the shows as “official bootlegs”. But we have to wait how it sounds when everything is mixed. The one or the other show are sound such great that we could release them without a problem. So it is an option, but we are not totally sure if we will do it.”
For 10 years now, Fredrik has been the new drummer of your band. How far has your playing and songwriting changed since his entry?
“We have become much more precise. It sounds like Cliché, but we’ve never played as tight as we do it today. Fredrik adopted many key elements of our sound and he also added a personal note. He was just the perfect man for this job, in terms of music and personality. It just works well and our mood has never been as good as it is today. However, when you are on the road for more than 20 month, it has to be good. Disregarding the fact, that I love to see my family again, I could be another 20 months on tour with these guys.”
Let us talk about less nice topic: One year ago, there was a terrorist raid on a rock concert at Bataclan in Paris.
“We played in that venue a few months before.”
Which influence has this event on your way of touring?
“None! I do not think about such things in my daily life. When something happens, it happens. Moreover, nothing changes when I think about it in advance. So why should I live in fear? I don’t think that we are a typical aim for terrorists. Of course, it could always hit us, just because somebody wants to blow up a rock concert. Another example: We are flying around the globe constantly. The planes could also crash. But you could also have a car accident or a brick could fall on your head. I don’t think about such things. Until today, everything went well. However, we had flat tire and a couple of engine failures when we were touring in the USA.
But I don’t think about terrorism. However: We had a show in Russia, which was affected some how. We played in Moscow 10-15 years ago. We were sitting in the backstage while our opening act was playing. After 15 minutes we noticed than nobody was playing anymore. Our monitor man took a look into the venue. He returned and said that the whole venue was empty. No one of the 6000 people was inside anymore. Now it was empty, but the KGB was searching for a bomb. Actually somebody called in a bomb threat and therefore the KGB evacuated the venue, but we were not allowed to leave our backstage room. We were not amused because it meant that we were probably sitting on a bomb. Actually no bomb was found and we finally played the concert. This situation is, of course, slightly different because there was an actual threat concerning one of our concerts. In general, I have no fear concerning terrorism and I do not know why I should.”
Actually, the terrorists would have achieved their goal then.
“Of course. They aim to seed fear. I also had no fear when Dimebag (Darrel, murdered Pantera guitar player) was shot on stage.”
My final question deals with nicer topic: In our last interview you recommended the 15 year old Glenlivet Whisky. Which one do you recommend today?
“Glenlivet 18 years, of course, haha! I also recommend the 18 year old Glenfiddich. I tastes much better than the 12 and 15-year-old ones. A more fancy recommendation is the Chivas Regal Royal Salute Rubin Edition. It is fucking expensive, but very delicate. I got it from my parents-in-law who said that they won’t drink it. But we wanted to! It is nothing for every day, but really delicate!”
Photos: Timo Päßler