Jeremiah: Welcome Marcus, André, Thomas, and Hansi. I’m glad I’ve gotten this opportunity to talk with you.
Hansi: It's a big pleasure for us to do this interview. As we all are big Tolkien fans, this is a good chance for us to present ourselves to people who are not familiar with the band so far. We might find a new fellowship.
Jeremiah: I’d like to begin by getting a tiny bit of background information about yourselves and the band as a whole. You are one of the more popular heavy metal bands in Europe, I understand. When did you start playing together, and when did you start gaining the popularity you now have?
Hansi: To talk about the band is always a little boring. I try to make it as short as possible. We were all, more or less, born as Tolkien fans and started our skill, the one or the other ignorant of course call it rubbish, 14 years ago, when we all were almost ready to enter our "tweens." From these days on we gained popularity day by day and finally, even without the big push of any record company, we became one of the biggest heavy metal bands worldwide. The biggest step we have made with our actual output Nightfall in Middle-Earth. This one has caused a lot of attention everywhere and is announced as one of the best metal albums ever, not only by the fans, but also by the critics.
Some even call it an album beyond any categories, because it simply contains more than just Heavy Metal. Fortunately all of our albums achieved a high acceptance by a huge amount of people. They are not only liked by Metal fans, but also appreciated by people with open ears and minds.
Almost each Metal fan on that planet recommends at least one piece of our catalogue to be one of his best. This is not only a German or a European phenomena. You can find the same kind of movement in Japan and also in the States. Of course it is a slow movement on the American market, but the buzz around Blind Guardian is increasing. People over there recently started recognising that the most valuable music nowadays is being performed by European artists and we belong to the most significant ones, I am happy to say.
So far we have released 8 albums and if someone would ask me to recommend some of our albums for a first Guardian experience, I would have him listen to Imaginations From the Other Side, Tales From the Twilight World, or Nightfall. To a Tolkien fan I would suggest Nightfall in Middle-Earth and that's not only because of the lyrics. The lyrics are supported by the music with each beat, or opposite. The album is based on The Flight of the Noldor my favourite section of The Silmarillion.
From the early days of the band's career on Tolkien had always been an important influence. In a lot of cases even more musical, than lyrical. Majesty as an example was our very first attempt to come up with a mixture of Tolkien lyrics and music based on the emotions we had while we were following Frodo on his way to Mount Doom. I believe everyone who is into the story knows how many emotions, smells, pictures and noises he/she has to face until he/she reaches the end of that magnificent journey. We use these feelings and transpose it into music. In the beginning we were far away from being perfect. Unfortunately we still are. On Majesty we were very young and very inexperienced. Both from the musical, as well from the lyrical side we were partly able to catch the spirit of that amazing story, but not more. It was too early. I would call that a Sword and Sorcery song more than a High Fantasy song. On that one the try counts.
The same I could say about Run for the Night and By the Gates of Moria. Last one is an instrumental, which already shows our classical ambition in a metallized way. Although I wouldn't call these songs perfect, a lot of people reacted very positively on the mixture: Tolkien inspired fantasy lyrics meet extremely melodious heavy music. People appreciated our music and the lyrics. By that they have started reading The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for their first time afterwards.
Later we attempted Tolkien stuff again on Tales from the Twilight World, when we did a song called Lord of the Rings. We did far better. It is a nice song, which people like in general. The song sounds a little naive and almost simple structured. This one is a homage to Frodo again. Though Frodo is structured a little more intellectual than his hobbit companions, he still is a hobbit. This basically is the reason why we have chosen this more folksong-like piece as another tribute to Professor Tolkien and his splendid world. We did a song called The Hobbit on a later album called Somewhere Far Beyond and this one is a good example for our progression as musicians and songwriters. The song contains a lot of strange elements, starting with a slightly different rhythm. It also features a unique arrangement.
Jeremiah: For those readers that don’t know, you have some songs that were written per inspiration by J.R.R. Tolkien. Quoting from your song Majesty on the Battalions of Fear album:
Running and hiding I'm left for the time
To bring back the order of devine
Hunted by goblins no Gandalf to help
With swords in the night
Oh the last part of the game
Decision of death and life
Blood for Sauron they'll call tonight
The final battle cry
How have you been influenced by Tolkien’s works, and why have you chosen to honor his amazing work of fantasy through music some would call unorthodox?
Hansi: Up to our latest release, the songs mentioned before is all we dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien lyricwise. 5 songs out of 50. Nevertheless, if people have talked about Blind Guardian's music, they combined it with The Lord of the Rings. This proves how much the music itself must contain some significant "Tolkienish" elements. Which is indeed how we feel music. As musicians we are inspired by the stories in each single moment. J.R.R. Tolkien has woven so much music into his words that it hardly can be overheard. You might hear it different than the next one, but we as a band seem to hear it in the same way and so do a lot of our fans.
This explains why the combination Metal and Tolkien is not unorthodox for us at all. Whatever we are doing musicwise, it only can be one aspect of Tolkien's world -- our personal one. A guy will like it and call it "Middle-Earth music", while the next one will hate it and call it "not even Mordor worth music." On Nightfall we dared to dedicate the whole album to Master Tolkien. I personally am very proud about that one. It features the story in a suitable way. I am sure that in the future whenever a song calls for it, we will continue using lyrics inspired by Frodo, Maglor, Olórin or whoever is closest to our hearts in these moments of giving birth to a song. Whatever people finally think about our songs, they should not forget to consider that we always try to honour Tolkien's world with our music and not to stain it.
Jeremiah: I can see a general influence in your music through fantasy and adventure stories, as well as stories from the Bible. Do you feel your music reflects the values and the styles of these types of literature?
Hansi: It at least does for us. Some people will agree, others won't. It is a very personal point of view. We try to match things which have attracted us somehow and we have to be amazed by those things in complete. Otherwise it would not work. From my point of view we are taking an advantage out of theses stories in finding some of our ideas there. On the other hand, we deliver this emotion to people who might be attracted to read these stories. We never steal things or copy them and we always try to make clear where we have taken our inspirations from. The essential spirit of these words motivates us, gives courage and strengths to us and is an enormous inspiration in our music and also in our lives.
To a lot of our fans, our music contains the same vibes and the same brightness . This proves that the music does reflect it, I guess.
Jeremiah: To come to the point, you have hopes that you will be asked to compose and perform the soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings movies. Why do you feel a heavy metal soundtrack would compliment the stirring and fantastic vision Peter Jackson has for these movies?
Hansi: First of all hope plays an important role in The Lord of the Rings, so it's good to have some and there's no need to lose it at any point. Second, in case we would get the opportunity to do the soundtrack, I doubt that it will be a Heavy Metal soundtrack. It will be unique music which has not been heard before. Like you guys we are die hard Tolkien fans and pretty familiar with The Lord of the Rings, which is one good point for us. Comparing us with established soundtrack composers our advantages are a bigger hunger, a higher freshness and far greater flexibility.
Of course, we can't mess with Mr. Goldsmith or Mr. Williams orchestral-wise, but I am sure inspiration-wise we are at least even. As these people are established, they are connected to certain sounds, we in the end can do whatever we feel fits best. The point is we are prepared and to be honest we recently started working on a classical project. Guess about what? Either we will be involved in the movie or not. One day we are going to release our acoustical vision of that tremendous story. The Lord of the Rings deserves fresh new music far away from all clichés and categories. We have prepared some samples, so whenever there is a request we are ready to show.
Jeremiah: If you were asked to compose a soundtrack for the movies, how would you go about doing it? What process would you take to make sure music matches scene, character, etc.? Would you try to include more traditional elements into your music to emphasize the fact that these are, first and foremost, fantasy films, not cult films?
Hansi: If we were asked to do it and we would be independent, it would turn out to be a musical, which does not make sense for a movie. So I, as a vocalist, would have to keep my mouth most of the time, unfortunately. The vocalparts would be leaned on Tolkien lyrics taken from the story and as well would be presented in Quenya, Sindarin, or whatever language fits best to the particular part. I have prepared some big, almost "Carmina Burana" like choirs, as well as some single voice folk stuff. Though we know the story almost perfectly, a screenplay will be necessary and from a certain point on it will be very important to work with the moving pictures as well.
As we have written down several parts for almost each character already, this would simply turn out to be a difficult arguing to find out which one fits best. As I have heard all the music André has written down for a happening like that, I just can say that it will be a trip through almost all kinds of music. It is pretty much like the music of the Ainur: vital and colourful, but also cold and threatening. This music will comfort everyone who is willing to listen. So it neither will be a heavy metal soundtrack, nor a Hollywood orchestral score/soundtrack. It simply would be far beyond imaginations.
Jeremiah: I’d like to thank you all once again for allowing me the pleasure of this talk. Good luck in all your future music projects, whatever they may be.
Hansi: It has been a lot of fun talking with you. We can't wait to see the movie and we are already counting the days. Music-wise we'll definitely try to release a regular Blind Guardian album next year. We will, of course, keep you informed. I am sure that one song will contain a Tolkien theme. The road goes on in any case. Good luck to you!