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Interview with Blind Guardian guitarist, Marcus Siepen

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Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine

As Blind Guardian prepared to play The Forum in London’s Kentish Town for the first time in several years, Adrian Hextall took the opportunity to chat to rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist, Marcus Siepen.

MGM: Let’s start with the new album.  Obviously, it’s a big deal for fans.  It’s been a few years in the making.

MS:      Yeah, as always (laughing).

MGM: Yeah, it’s a significant, not delay as such, but a long time for Blind Guardian to prepare and deliver this one.  Why such a gap?  I mean, typically, bands don’t leave it that long.

MS:      Guns N Roses?

MGM: Oh, yeah, of course. They made everybody wait 15 years, yeah good point! (laughing).

MS:      There are good reasons for the time it takes us I guess. People always see that four or five year space in between albums but what people oversee is that once we put out an album, we go on the road. We’re doing quite extensive tours as well, so normally, we’re on the road for at least 18 months.

And, with this kind of music that we’re playing, we can’t write this stuff on the road, you know?

MGM: Yes.

MS:      You need to be at home, you know?  You have to get the old songs out of your head because otherwise, if we were to be writing on the road, you find your head is filled with the sounds and styles of some of the stuff that we’re actually playing at gigs. And we don’t want that to happen.  So, we only start working on new stuff once the tour is done, so, then, your first one and a half years is gone.  Then, the stuff that we are writing, it’s so packed with all little details.  It just takes quite some time to write it.

MGM: Given the complex nature of the songs and the additional musicians you use, you can’t take three choirs and two orchestras on the road with you easily either.

MS:      No, not really.  We would like to. But you know, it just takes another one and a half years to write that stuff, then you need another half year or whatever to record it.  It’s just the way it works for us, you know.  We would [deliver the album sooner] – it’s not that we take this time on purpose.  If you say, “You know, let’s relax because you know the four years are not gone yet…”

“We have time.”  We just need that time.  If we could do it faster, we would, but so far, we didn’t find a way to be faster.  So, that’s… The simple answer (smiles).

MGM: And in terms of the timing as well.  It’s the sequel or successor to ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’?

MS:      Kind of, yeah.

MGM: Is it deliberate, that it’s 20 years later since Imaginations was released.

MS:      No.  It happened by accident. You know, in the beginning when we started working on this one, there were no plans to make it the successor to that one or to make it a concept out of anything.  We just started writing on the next album.

At some point, Hansi realized, no, I think it was while we were working on the Best Of box set that we put out in whenever, 2013 or so, I don’t remember, Hansi realized that he never finished that story that he started telling on the ‘Imaginations’ album.

And, we just took the opportunity and you know, suggested doing this concept thing again and we loved the idea, and you know, we said, “Let’s go for it.”

MGM: Now, that’s an interesting point you raise as well because of course the last track on the previous album is ‘And Now the Story Ends.’

MS:      Yup.

MGM: But not really?

MS:      No, it didn’t end.  (Laughter)

MGM: So, how did you approach this one, given that it seemed fairly final with the album?

MS:      Yeah, but you know, Hansi realized that at the end of ‘Imaginations’, you know, there is this kid and it had the opportunity to step into this different world, but we never found out if the kid.. took that step.

MGM: Yeah.

MS:      And you know, he wanted to tell that story, and on the new album, we’re like 20 years later, the kid is a grown up and we found out that the kid, after all, it was a kid, was too afraid to take that step into a different world.  But now, they’ve kind of accepted their fate, and you know, they start a journey to find that last open portal to finally take that step into this different world.  And that’s the story that Hansi is telling on this one.

MGM: And with this one, has time passed for the child as well?

MS:      Yeah, yeah, no.  The kid is 20 years older, so they’re an adult now.

MS:      Now, he’s brave enough to take that step?

MS:      (Laughter)

MGM: And in terms of the inspiration you guys get for the music, I mean, even if you look at the last album, you’ve got so many references to famous fantasy authors or mythology.

MS:      No matter if it’s mythology stuff, if it’s horror stuff like Stephen King or fantasy or whatever, you know, whatever we like might be an inspiration.  So, I think that’s kind of natural for Hansi when it comes to his lyrical writing.

MGM: What about the fact that it is of course the 20th anniversary of Imaginations as well?  Is there a desire to now play both albums back-to-back s a stage show?

MS:      Not within the band,no.  (Laughter)

MGM: Not yet.

MS:      Not yet, no.  People have been asking about something like this for quite some time, not especially about ‘Imaginations’ but for example for the ‘Nightfall…..’ album, which was a concept album as well.  People have been asking, “Why don’t you do, you know, the whole Nightfall then one set, blah blah blah?”

MGM: Yeah.

MS:      I have to say, obviously, that could be done and I think some people would like it.  I wouldn’t really like it because something that is important for me at least when I go to a show myself being a visitor of whatever other band, you know, I don’t want to know in advance what they’ll be playing and what running order the songs will be.

MGM: You like the element of surprise.

MS:      Exactly, yeah. And announcing, yeah, we’ll play ‘Imaginations’ or we’ll play whatever album takes away that element completely, and I don’t really like this, I have to say.  I’m not saying that we will never ever do this.  It might happen at some point.  No idea.  But, at least, there are no plans to do anything like this in the moment.

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MGM: You’ve got such an extensive back catalogue anyway, haven’t you?  I suppose you’ve got a set list that will always get comments from concert goers to say “they never played anything off this one or this one…” It is very hard to please everybody, isn’t it?

MS:      And putting together the set list is getting more difficult each time you go on the road, you know?

MGM: Yeah.

MS:      Like for example, in the moment we’re playing like 17 or 18 songs a night, you know.  It depends on how long the songs are that we’re playing, but we’ve prepared like 40 because we like to change the set list every day.  By doing this, it stays more interesting for us because playing the same couple of songs for one and a half years would turn into a very boring routine and all the spontaneous elements would be gone.

MGM: Yeah.

MS:      And also a lot of fans come to more than just one show. And by changing the songs, they get to see different sets.  And, on the other hand, of course, like this we can cover more territory, you know.  From albums, you know, we can say, you know, when somebody complains, “You didn’t play that song,” you say, “Yeah, we played it last week, we’ll play it again next week, so….”

MGM: Yeah, come back.

MS:      “If you want to see it, come back.”  Yeah.  (Laughter)

MGM: Looking at the styles on the album, there was a real switch, and again with the subsequent album as well, when you did ‘A Night At The Opera’. There was almost recognition that Queen must have been a big influence? I love that the musical style, the layering of the guitars and the vocals had a nudge to say, Roy Thomas Baker in the way he produced as well.  I’m guessing it was deliberate, and who’s the big Queen fan?

MS:      All of us. Across the board. Yeah, I mean, Queen is a band that has been important for everybody in the band, and I mean, they are outstanding, you know?  They had all kinds of phases to their history, you know?  They started out as a pretty heavy rocking hard rock bands, you know?

MGM: Yeah.

MS:     One of my favourite albums in the moment is ‘Live At The Rainbow’ thing that they just put out like a couple of months ago.  They’re both shows from ’74, I think?

FROM QUEENONLINE:  QUEEN: LIVE AT THE RAINBOW ’74

Previously unreleased first live album finally surfaced after a 40 year wait. Recorded on Sunday 31st March 1974 the concert is a landmark date in the history of rock music.

That concert marked the culmination of the band’s countrywide tour, their first as headliners – hot on the heels of a tour supporting Mott the Hoople, late in 1973, on which they were widely regarded as having blown the hit band off the stage.

MS:      It’s amazing, you know?  And you know, then they have the more poppy stuff later, but whenever, you know, you listen to them, you immediately know that’s Queen. That’s something that I really appreciated about it, you know, but they really put a stamp on their music no matter what kind of style they are playing, you know?  Whatever they’re playing, you listen to that song, you know, that’s Queen.

MGM: Yeah.

MS:      And that’s something that I think, you know, if somebody listens to us, you can say that’s Blind Guardian. So, that’s something that we definitely want to achieve with our music and also about copying Queen or anything, obviously they have been an influence, but you know, we want people to immediately know, oh, great, that’s Blind Guardian, you know?  At least two couple of bars of the song or whatever, you know that it’s us.

MGM: So what are you up to after this?  What’s next for the band?

MS:      We’ll be on the road until the end of this year.  We’ll be in Europe for around two and a half months and we have about four days at home before we go to Australia and Japan.  And in summer, there is a break in which we have to finish some recordings for the Orchestral Project that we’ve been working on forever now.

MGM: I know that it was announced.  Was it in 2011?

MS:      We announced it a couple of times.  But, we’re about to finish it, you know?  Most of the stuff is recorded.  Hansi has to still do some vocals which he plans to do in summer, so we might be able to finally put it out next year.

MS:      But you know, then after that summer break touring, we’ll continue.  We’ll hit South America in, I think, later September or early October or something like that, then go through North America, Canada.  We might come back to the UK.

MGM: Do you find yourself looking around for any festivals?

MS:      Festivals will all be next year. We always separate this.  On the first year, it’s just headlining shows… And we do the festival next year.

With a tight time slot for the interview, we draw to a close. Blind Guardian played a sold out show that evening and a review of the gig can be found here:

Blind Guardian Live at the Kentish Town Forum

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