In 81 I discovered Metal when I heard “Purgatory” on the radio and it immediately made me a metalhead.”
W (Nando Machado): How was the process of choosing which songs would be part of the “best of” compilation that’s going to be released in January?
MS: That’s very difficult, actually, because we would have to put more songs on the album, but obviously there’s just a restricted number, otherwise we would have to put all the 5 or 6 CDs. So, we made our lists, we made off suggestions and obviously there were a couple of songs that we have to put on the “best of”, because, for example, I think we can’t release “The best of Blind Guardian” album without putting “The Bard’s Song” on it, because fans would crucify us, because this is one of THE Blind Guardian songs, if not THE Blind Guardian song. But we also wanted to go for a couple of songs that actually we also rediscovered by going through our own back catalogue, songs from “Follow the Blind” ended on the album, for example, and also “Somewhere Far Beyond”, which are songs that we kind of forgot in our old history, you know? They have not really been present for us, and by going through the old albums we rediscovered them, rediscovered their qualities. And that’s why we came up in the end with the songs that ended up in this double album and as I said, it’s a hard choice because we would have loved to put more songs on the album that are not on there in the end. For example, sometimes we made the choice like…we had “And Then There Were Silence” on the album and we also have “Sacred Worlds” on this album, that’s why we did not choose “Wheel of Time”, because it would be a third very long song, very epic song, very orchestrated song, so we thought that this aspect of our music was already featured in the other two songs. That’s why we went, for example, for “Ride Into Obsession” which represents a completely different side of Blind Guardian, a very straightforward Speed Metal side, you know? The old school roots of the band.
W (NM): So, the Bards are playing in Brazil soon and there will be a concert with Grave Digger in São Paulo. How is your relationship with the other German Power and Speed bands?
MS: Oh, we have a very good relationship to pretty much all the bands that we met over all those years and we also have great relationship to Helloween, to Gamma Ray, to Rage, to Kreator, to Sodom, Grave Digger, obviously. I think the only band we never had any relationship with is to Running Wild, because we never ever met them on gigs or concerts or festivals, you know? But we have a very, very good relationship to all those people that I just mentioned and it’s always great when we play in some festivals where we meet one or the other, we always have a good time.
W (NM): So, as you’re saying, there are so many great Metal bands coming from Germany, I think that Germany is probably next to United States and England like one of the most important countries when it comes to Heavy Metal. Have you guys from Blind Guardian ever thought of doing a tour like the “Big Four” did, putting together all the main Metal bands from Germany in one show?
MS: Actually, we’ve been talking about this several times. I remember we’ve been sitting backstage in whatever festival, talking to Mille from Kreator and we were talking “Oh, we should do a US tour together”, “Oh, yeah, let’s do this one day”. And talking to the guys of Gamma Ray about the same thing and the guys from Helloween. The problem is, in the end, time schedules have to be matched in, it only makes sense if all the bands put an album out around the same time, are available for touring and this is the tricky thing. I would love to do something like this, because I think it would be a very, very special package for the fans if we would do the kind of “big four German Metal”, and it would also be a lot of fun for us, because it would be like a whole bunch of friends being on the road together, so to me that sounds something like a lot of fun. And I can perfectly imagine that this will happen one day.
W (NM): Changing the subject, there are many Brazilian bands that were influenced by Power Speed Metal coming from Germany. What do you know about older bands like Viper, Angra, Shaman and a singer called Andre Matos? Have you ever heard this kind of music?
MS: First of all, yes, I heard the music and we played with many of them, you know? We played a tour with Angra in Japan in… when was it? 2007, I think. We toured Japan together and we got friends with those guys. Andre Matos, of course, we know from his Angra days and I’ve always been a big fan of Sepultura, which plays different music, of course, but we’re aware of Brazilian Metal bands, there are some very, very good ones.
W (NM): There’s a classic question on this show, one that if you could choose one song that makes you lose your mind wherever you might be, maybe from another band, one song that whenever you hear it you go totally crazy, you feel like headbanging wherever you are, which song would that be? So the song can be played on the show.
MS: I would pick “Purgatory”, from Iron Maiden, because that song came to my mind this morning when I was on an interview by email and I was asked which song got me into Metal and this, actually, is exactly the song that made me a Metalhead. I heard it back in 81 when I was still a kid and the Killers album was just released and I heard somewhere on the radio and it just blew my mind and after that day it’s my very, very favorite Maiden song ever and I just love that song, so whenever I hear this, I think of Metal.
When I first heard “Ride the Lightning” by Metallica, I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on.”
W (NM): Talking about the beginning of your career, how did you first start listening to Metal? And how did you first start thinking of playing guitar?
MS: Actually, playing guitar came before listening to Metal, in my case. Very shortly before, because when I was like 10 or 11 my parents wanted me to learn an instrument and I had the free choice and I picked the guitar because I just liked it best out of the options. My mother suggested piano, or clarinet or violin and I was like “No, guitar, please”. I started learning classical guitar in a music school here and as I said, in 81 I discovered Metal for me, when I heard “Purgatory” on the radio and immediately made me a metalhead. I recorded that song from the radio and from that day on I spent all my pocket money on albums. I went to the next record store on the next day and bought everything that I could get from Maiden and from there on I discovered all the other great bands like Sabbath, like Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Priest, whatever was on back then, Rainbow, Purple, Uriah Heep, and from there, of course, whatever came out I checked it out and I loved it, like Metallica, Slayer, in the early days, all the great bands. So Maiden made me a metalhead and with that, of course, came the change, I lost my interest in learning classical guitar, I bought a “flying V” and wanted to be a Metal guitar player then. So that came along with my devotion for Metal.
W (NM): Tell me a little bit about what do you remember of the Heavy Metal scene or the music scene in Krefeld, a very small city from Germany.
MS: It was a great scene in the 80s, you know? We had a lot of friends. There was one Metal pub where we were hanging out at least three days a week, I think it was Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when we all met in that pub and listened to music all night long and had fun. We went to concerts together, we saw all the great gigs. I remember we went to the Master of Puppets gig on Metallica’s tour. I think it was in 85, we went there with forty guys, you know? We had six or seven cars, we went there. We went to all the gigs together, it was so much fun, we went to the festivals together, like “Monsters of Rock” or “The Dynamo Open Air” in the Netherlands, wich was just an hour away from here. It was a great camaraderie, everybody played new bands to the other guys, one guy bought an album and like this we discovered new bands. It was a great time.
W (NM): What do you remember of that period when Power and Speed Metal were being created? Do you remember that there were something special going on or it was just something that came out naturally?
MS: It was very exciting, you know? As I said, “Purgatory” actually has been a pretty fast and aggressive song already for Maiden’s standards. But I remember when I first heard “Ride the Lightning” by Metallica, I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on, you know? It was so fast and so intense, so heavy, it just blew me away, you know? It definitely influenced me as a musician; it definitely influenced Blind Guardian, because obviously we started as a Melodic Speed Metal band. We were very fast, we just wanted to have the melodies in there, but the speeds and all this excitement in the music, it was also.
W (NM): What are your best memories of the period you went to military service with Andre?
MS: Actually, neither Andre nor me served in the military, here in Germany you had the choice to either go to the military or…
W (NM): Community service.
MS: Yeah, yeah. I worked in an old people’s home, which was pretty tough sometimes, but it was a very good experience, because the funny thing was that obviously I had long hair, I had my leather jacket, I was the typical metalhead back then. And all the old people together with me they were mocking the nice looking boys that worked there. We were making fun of them and they laughed with me, which was something that I found very, very cool, because a lot of people think that the old people would never accept a long haired guy with earrings and black leather jacket and tight jeans and whatever. But they were very open minded, some even asked me to play my music to them, they wanted to listen to it, they didn’t really like it, but they were open for it and that was very, very cool.
W (NM): Changing the subject again, can you tell us a little bit about The Lord of the Rings orchestral project?
MS: Yes, the most important information: it’s not about The Lord of the Rings anymore. I mean, we never really fixed the lyrics for that yet. We were thinking about different options; The Lord of the Rings was one option, obviously, but there’s a lot of copyright problems around this. You have to deal with Tolkien’s family and stuff, so in the end a different opportunity opened for us. There is a very, very good writer in Germany called Markus Heitz, who it’s actually one of the best German fantasy authors and he happens to be a Blind Guardian fan. And we will do a kind of collaboration with him for that album, so he actually will write a novel for that album which are where the song’s lyrics will be based on. So, he can create the universe and everything for that album, which is very, very special for us, obviously, since we’re big fans of this guy. And concerning the music it’s typical Blind Guardian music, just without the Metal band, so you’ll have all the melody lines, all the arrangements played, but played by a classical orchestra with Hansi singing. So, it sounds like Blind Guardian on one side, on the other side it sounds completely different, but it’s very exciting for us, it sounds awesome, we already recorded five or six songs and we also think about maybe doing a more heavy version of this later on involving the band, we have to see if we can adapt it to the Metal band too, but first thing should be purely classical with Hansi singing, as I said.
W (NM): So, to choose a song again, can you choose a song of Blind Guardian that you’re really proud to be part of so it could be played on the show now?
MS: Yes, I would take “Somewhere Far Beyond”, because I rediscovered the song when we were looking for songs to put on “the best of” album and I knew, I always knew that I liked the song, but when we really went through the backups a lot now and listened to our old stuff, I really had to rediscover how good this song is, because I think it has, lyrical wise, one of the best lyrics we have and also the song itself, concerning music, in my opinion, it’s one of THE highlights of our career.
Playing in Brazil has been one of the absolute highlights for everybody in Blind Guardian.”
W (NM): You’ve always had a very strong career in Brazil. How was your relationship with the country?
MS: It has always been one of the greatest moments when we could play there and I remember, when we played in Brazil for the very first time in ’98, we didn’t have any idea what to expect, none of our friends had ever played in Brazil before. We talked to other bands, but nobody was there before. So, we had no idea what would happen and I think the first show we played, I think it was São Paulo, I’m not sure about it. But, you know, we had six or seven thousand people there, but went completely nuts with singing every single song. And the energy that came from the audience was so overwhelming and ever since, this has been one of the absolute highlights for everybody in Blind Guardian, to play in Brazil. Because the fans are so devoted, so enthusiastic and so friendly and on the other side, when we meet people outside, when we walk through towns or just sit in a café, have a drink or whatever, whoever you meet is always great, you know? You talk a bit, you do some pictures, you sign something, everybody is in a good mood, that’s a very cool thing. On top of this my wife is Brazilian, so I have a very special relationship to the country, anyway.
W (NM): Really, where is she from?
MS: From João Pessoa.
W (NM): João Pessoa? All right.
MS: Actually, it’s a shame that most tours stay in the South, around São Paulo, Rio and Porto Alegre. I think it would be great if we could spread the gigs much more throughout Brazil. The problem is Brazil is a giant country and transportation of backline and equipment, I think this is what’s causing the problem at some point. But we are very, very happy to be able to play much more in the north now.
W (NM): Ok, so changing the subject completely again, how is your skateboarding going?
MS: I have to clear up this once and for all, because there are the wildest rumors about me and skateboarding on the Internet. I have never ever been a skateboarder, I did this once in my life for two hours and it went perfectly fine and then I broke my leg in five times and that was the very last time I ever touched a skateboard. I don’t plan on taking this up again; I would never ever ride a skateboard anymore, because, to be honest, I would be scared to death. I’ve been skiing ever since I was three years old, I can do this very well, I’ve never hurt myself. I can do inline skating very well, which I also always did since I was a kid, never hurt myself. Skateboarding was just a stupid idea because my son actually had a skateboard and he was riding it around the house and some day he was like “Don’t you want to join me?” and I was like “Hey, why not?”. So we went to town, I bought a fucking skateboard, we went home again, we road it for two hours then I fell of that thing and broke my leg. I would never ever do this anymore.
W (NM): So, where do you live now?
MS: In Krefeld, still.
W (NM): You still live in Western Germany, right?
MS: Yes, all the band lives still in Germany, Hansi, Andre and me are from Krefeld, we also still live in Krefeld. Just Frederik is not from this area, he’s from the area around Wiesbaden, which is more to the South, it’s like two and a half hours from here.
W (NM): Can you leave a last message to your Brazilian fans and invite everyone to see Blind Guardian on the Metal Open Air in São Luís and in São Paulo with Grave Digger on the 21rd of April?
MS: Of course. I want to thank everybody for the support of all the years. The first time we went to Brazil was thirteen years ago and whenever we came back it has been a blast for us. We’ve just been in Brazil some months ago and it was awesome. And I hope to see all of you guys again when we come to play the Metal Open Air and also the show in São Paulo with Grave Digger. Let’s have a big party again; let’s do a lot of singing together and I hope to see you guys soon.
W (NM): All right, thank you, Marcus Siepen. Thank you so much for your time.
MS: You’re welcome.
W (NM): Bye, bye.