Blind Guardian are about to take it to a new level

Blind Guardian are about to do it again. The new album ‘Behind The Red Mirror’ will be released in January and promises to be bigger than anything else the band has released before in their career. The German pioneers of power metal have set themselves ambitious goals again. Guitarist and long-time member Marcus Siepen explains what Blind Guardian have changes tis time around.

Marc: Your new album ‘Behind The Red Mirror’ will be released end of January. What can you tell me about your new album?

Marcus: It’s definitely the biggest thing we did so far. On the last one we had the chance to work with a real orchestra for the first time in our career. That’s something we love doing and wanted to explore to a different level. I think we did that. On the new album we worked actually with two orchestras. We also worked with two different, big choirs. This is also something we never did before. Blind Guardian and choirs, that’s something with a long tradition but we wanted the choirs to be of a certain size and dimension that you can’t reach with the approach on all the previous albums. There we had a choir company with a few singers that did all the backing vocals. Whenever the backing vocals had to be bigger we doubled and tripled them but at some point you can’t make them sound any bigger. After all it’s the same voices. We wanted the choirs to sound really big. We wanted this kind of ‘Carmina Burana’ feeling. I think we achieved that with the opening of the first song. So we worked with different choirs.

We tried some things with down-tuned guitars for the very first time in our career which was a very cool experience because it opens up a lot of other things especially in regards to the mix. When you tune the guitars to a different frequency range that opens more room for orchestration in the mix, it gives Hansi a different range to sing to.

We reduced the medieval, folkloristic elements a bit and went more into a futuristic soundtrack. That’s how I feel about it. The great thing is we kept everything that Blind Guardian was about. There is old-school speed and thrash metal stuff, there is epic stuff, there is progressive stuff but we tried to take it to the next level and I think we achieved that. So I hope the people will dig it and agree with us.

“The chemistry between all the people is perfect. Everybody understands what we want.”

Marc: Listening to the album it seems to be the most symphonic you ever released. How did the song writing go now that you added so many new features?

Marcus: The song writing didn’t really change. The tricky point is always to get into that mode of finding new things. What can happen, once you start writing, is that you compose something and you have the first three or four minutes and sit back and realise that sounds like something we did already in the past. That’s normally the point when we throw it away because we don’t want to repeat ourselves. The tricky point is to find that inspiration that take you somewhere else. Knowing that we could work with a real orchestra again led us into one direction. The experience of working with real choirs added to this. Another inspiration was to go for really low-tuned guitars which changed the sound. It inspires you to write different riffs and it opens new possibilities. Once you know in what direction you want to go the writing itself is the same as always. It didn’t really change.

Marc: How does the song writing for you work in general? Is it everybody on his own in front of a computer and then you share files?

Marcus: That’s pretty much it. When we write songs there is so much going on that you can’t write a song by just jamming. You can’t try out all those things. So, yeah, everybody has a studio at home so we can work independently. Then we exchange files. The key figure on this is Hansi because no matter what Andre composes or what riffs I write Hansi has to sing to it. So he is the key figure in the process. We give him our ideas and if he can sing to them, if it works, great, if he can’t we have to work again or throw the ideas away and start something different. That’s basically the way it works for us. Everybody works at home. What we did on the last albums already and what changed compared to the albums before that is once we finished writing two or three songs we immediately record them properly for the album. So it’s not one big recording session in which we record ten or twelve songs at once. It’s kind of taking some time off writing where you just have to concentrate on performing. After that we go back to writing mode and write another two or three songs. We go back and forth between those two things. That worked out pretty well for us.

Marc: Who was part of the production team this time?

Marcus: It was the same team as on the last couple of albums. Charly Bauerfeind did the production again and it’s the same team working on the orchestration. That’s something where we have to rely on the help of others because Andre can prepare the ideas for the orchestra on keyboards but when you want a real orchestra to play that stuff you can’t just send them an MP3 and say ‘Please listen to it and play something like that’. You need to have a written score for the orchestra. That’s something none of us can do. We can’t write a score for an orchestra. So we have some people to help with it. They go through the orchestration, fine tune it here and there and write a score. Then we can go to the orchestra and say ‘This is what we want you to do. Here’s the score, please record’. So we didn’t change the team. Everything is working for us. The chemistry between all the people is perfect. Everybody understands what we want so there was no need for changes.

“Whatever we feel like recording. Whatever we feel the song needs we record it.”

Marc: How are you going to bring that sound and the choirs on stage actually? What are your plans for your live performances?

Marcus: That’s a very good question that I can’t answer yet. (Laughs) Actually that is something we have to work on now. The typical problem – although I don’t consider it to be a problem – that we have with every album is that we record whatever we feel like recording. Whatever we feel the song needs we record it. Obviously there are many choir parts and guitar parts and when we go on stage there are just two guys with guitars and just six people on stage that can sing backing vocals.  So we have to re-arrange everything. That’s a typical thing that happens after every album production. We go into the rehearsal room and change everything. We just have to go through the songs and see what the most important parts of the songs are. We have to completely adapt the songs for the live performances. I don’t know yet how this will turn out this time. I do know there’s a lot of work ahead. The good thing is that it always works. I remember when we did the ‘Night At The Opera’ album which had the song ‘Then There Was Silence’ which was the biggest and most epic song we had at that time. We wanted to play that song live. Everybody said ‘You can’t do that, it’s impossible, you can’t play that song live’. Actually it was very simple. It involved a bit of work obviously. I remember we did three or four days of rehearsals for the backing vocals only.  We had to re-arrange some things but the songs can be played live perfectly fine. I’m pretty us it’s going to be the same with the new stuff. We just have to sit down and work on it.

Marc: Have you booked any tours for 2015?

Marcus: On January we will be part of the ‘70,000 Tons Of Metal’ cruise again. That’s the second time for us and this is something we are really looking forward to. It’s an amazing festival. You are on the ocean on this cruise ship with 60 bands and thousands of fans. It’s amazing. The atmosphere there is brilliant. The actual Blind Guardian headliner tour will kick off in April. We’ll be on the road in Europe for two or three months. Then we’ll have a break in summer. Everything that will happen after that is being prepared right at the moment. Actually the plan is to also come to Australia in September or October. There are no fixed dates yet. As soon as they will be confirmed we will publish them on our website. Australia is definitely on the list for next year.

Marc: What do you do on the actual day when one of your albums comes out? Do you have a routine? Or is it business as usual?

Marcus: It’s not business as usual. Obviously we are interested in the feedback from the fans. It’s not a fixed routine. Sometimes I go online and check the responses online. When we put out the first album ‘Battalions Of Fear’ back in 1988 I actually went to my favourite record store and bought one record myself. I just liked the idea of buying my own album. In general I am interested in the reactions. I will be online talking to some people for sure but there is no fixed routine. But it’s definitely a special day for us.