Fifteen years after the critically acclaimed “Touched By The Crimson King,” DEMONS & WIZARDS are back with their highly anticipated third album “III.” We had the opportunity to talk to vocalist Hansi Kürsch about the upcoming album. Read the entire interview here.
First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview and taking the time for it. After so many years of waiting, your new album “III” is finally ready. How are you feeling about the upcoming release?
I’m relieved, happy and proud. It was a tough chase, even though we planned everything precisely. We made one big mistake, which turned out to be a big success… We gave in playing shows last year. We had a very short timeframe from the beginning of this album. We saw the chance to compose the material together from the end of 2018 on and we knew we would have some time in 2019 to finish the album. Once we announced that in interviews promoters came to us and asked us for an appearance on several festivals in Europe and we agreed on doing so. Of course, this time was stolen from the composing and producing of this album. We think it really was a tight time schedule, but we made it, and it turned out to be very well. There was a little risk of failing, of course. But as we are here now, we managed to release an album we are both very satisfied with. It was a very pleasant experience from the beginning. Even though there were fifteen years in between the songwriting, the way the chemistry as songwriters between us worked, was exactly no time had gone by in between the releases. We rushed through the songwriting, I have to say. Most of the songs were written between October 2018 and February 2019 and that’s an accomplishment because it’s still epic and complex music. Production-wise we did it whenever we had the time afterwards, as I mentioned. I really feel it’s one of the strongest albums I have worked on so far, there are some BLIND GUARDIAN albums which might be a little bit stronger, but with regard to DEMONS & WIZARDS, I think that this is by far the strongest DEMONS & WIZARDS’ album up to now.
The album sounds a little bit different than your two previous releases. In a way, I think it’s more progressive, and a bit more hard rock-oriented. Do you feel like your direction has evolved a little bit since the two previous albums, and if so, why?
I think we are more defined on this one, of course, when we started making music together, that was by coincidence. We didn’t know we would be able to create music together and what the turnout would be. It just happened after a hungover night at my place when we composed a song called “My Last Sunrise,” and then we agreed we should do something with it, which turned out to be DEMONS & WIZARDS later on. When we wrote these first two albums, we defined the direction already. We spoke about the direction and the style we wanted to establish for DEMONS & WIZARDS, and of course, our two characters, can’t be denied either. It still was somewhat of a process, even if there are fifteen years in between. Maybe because of the development we both have taken at that time… It shines through more clearly on this album. We both have a passion for ‘70s rock music, classic rock music, so you’re absolutely correct there. That was one of the goals we have had especially for this album. When I listen to a song like “Timeless Spirit” or “Children Of Cain” or even “Midas Disease,” I have to say that this mission has been accomplished 100%. As for the progressive part, they are more based on musical arrangements closer connected to Jon than they were connected to me. He has a passion for that. He’s a very straightforward songwriter, but he weaves in elements like that, and it does not always appear so obvious than it would be the case with a progressive band. He has quite good skill in doing that, in “Final Warning,” for example, the chorus is very progressive, and there are some almost RUSH-like drum patterns in “Wolves In Winter,” but you don’t recognize it at the first listen. That’s something we want to fit in because we feel that this sets DEMONS & WIZARDS apart from ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN. There’s also a similarity with the first two albums, which we intensified, there are these atmospheric parts, like at the end of “Diabolic,” for instance, we did something similar on “Heaven Denies” on the first DEMONS & WIZARDS album. I think we are even more on point with regard to such pieces of music, and this makes it so exciting for me.
Talking about “Diabolic,” one question I had, which is about something that really surprised me in that song what that I heard you growl – well, I guess it was you, or someone else maybe – but this is something I never associated with DEMONS & WIZARDS. It made me wonder if you feel like this is a project where you get to experiment both a little bit more than you would for instance with BLIND GUARDIAN and ICED EARTH?
We for sure have the opportunity to do experiments that might not be suitable for either ICED EARTH or BLIND GUARDIAN, but basically, whatever we do on a DEMONS & WIZARDS’ album, we could do on a BLIND GUARDIAN or an ICED EARTH album. The difference is the collaboration and the chemistry and the result that comes from it. With regard to the growls (laughs), I didn’t expect myself to do that. I have to say that this was a suggestion coming from Charlie Bauerfeind who worked with me on the vocals for “Diabolic,” I had prepared this particular part in a more or less classical metal way of singing, more like Rob Halford, so by going into extreme heights, Charlie said you that I do that quite often on this album, and suggested why not go into a different direction. We were speaking about going into a more RAMMSTEIN-like direction with the song. Basically he introduced the idea and, of course, it is my output, but the basic idea comes from Charlie Bauerfeind, and it fits the song very well. It fits in extremely well into DEMONS & WIZARDS, but as I said, it would be possible to use something like that with BLIND GUARDIAN as well. How Charlie came up with the idea is actually related to BLIND GUARDIAN & THE TWILIGHT ORCHESTRA, because, on that classical album, I’m also educating my voice into different characters and into different directions. I assume it was there that he for the first time realized how low I can go with my voice, even with my lead voice. I believe this is what made him think about such a part, so it’s all somehow related.
You have been mentioning that “Diabolic” is connected to “Heaven Denies.” You already mentioned that the atmospheric part is very similar, but I was wondering if you could tell us a bit more about the thematics of both songs?
“Heaven Denies” was a fictive story I designed about the fall of Lucifer, and how he himself relates to it. It’s about how he feels about being the ultimate evil, and how he is struggling with the reasons for that because he was just questioning things… and yeah maybe he was tempting mankind a little bit, but that’s basically it. You know, he was an archangel, so he doesn’t feel as evil. He felt separated from his source in “Heaven Denies.” What we deal with in “Diabolic,” is the event after the fall of Lucifer when he joins together with other fallen angels and establishes sort of an unholy trinity with two other mighty archangels which would be Satan and Beëlzebub. Together with them, he establishes the war against heaven and that’s basically the sequel to heaven denies.
More in general, what are some of the themes that are present on this album. Is there anything that connects them?
I was thinking about that during the last days and yes, there is something and that would be the fact that they are all connected to the supernatural abilities mankind has, and how they are abused and sometimes how they are used for the good, but mainly how they are abused. “Midas Disease” is about a TV-preacher who is manipulating people constantly, and he always gets away with it. This is a supernatural talent the guy has, he is unbeatable, everything we’re doing as a species is supernatural and unnatural at the same time, and that is the source of every song. Sometimes it’s pure storytelling like in “Children Of Cain,” which is a fictive short story I created some time ago about a society called The Children Of Cain which can be compared to us. In the story, the murdering of your brother is an established tool to become an accepted member of this society. There is an annual ritual that leads all the young people, all the young boys into the cave of Cain, where they are supposed to kill their brothers. Obviously, in the song something goes wrong, because there’s one guy who’s going insane, and he’s going to kill everyone who’s beneath him, and that is not accepted by the society.
Okay, interesting. You already mentioned that one mistake you made was accepting the tour before finishing the album. I actually saw one of your shows at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium and looking at the audience around me, it was clear that this was something so many people had been waiting for. How was the experience for you guys since you tour very seldom with this band?
Yeah (laughs), that’s almost exaggerated (laughs) we barely ever play. It was exactly like you said, we felt it the same way. We have been overwhelmed by the reaction and we could figure exactly what you said… That people have been waiting for it to happen. It was so clear from the very first moment we entered the stage somewhere in Germany up to the very last show in Atlanta we played. The reaction was always the same. There were a lot of crying grownups (laughs) in front of the stage, celebrating the band and these people, you literally could see that they couldn’t believe their eyes in seeing that happening. It was very emotional and very impressive.
I understood that you are not planning a tour for this album cycle. How do you see the future for DEMONS & WIZARDS concerning albums and tours?
It’s open, it’s really open. It depends on the activities of our other two bands, and how the time schedules can be aligned with each other. We figured that this year was… Even though it looked like a possible thing to do, it was very difficult to get everything under control during the whole time. With regard to that, I would say that I would love to do another tour in the future, but I would not be able to tell you when this is going to happen, and I would not even be able exactly if it’s going to happen, but the intention is at least there.
Fans only heard a couple of singles so far, but what can they expect from the new album?
It is the strongest out of the three DEMONS & WIZARDS’ albums, without any doubt. It’s quite a long trip, and it’s going to be a massive journey through all the motions of music. It’s very atmospheric, and I think it’s also very touching. What I am really amazed about, even though it’s almost… Yeah, you can consider it almost a long album… It’s 65 minutes long, and it still tells stories that will entertain you. You will not feel that it’s such a long album, it will really please the listener and without any doubt, the ones who are going to listen to it will want more DEMONS & WIZARDS for sure.
I think it was Tobias Sammet who once mentioned to me that in his eyes you are a bard and that you love telling stories. Would you say that the storytelling aspect is the most important thing on the album, after what you just mentioned?
It is part of my nature. I would not even argue about what Tobias said. It’s really nothing I think about, but it’s my approach to writing music. When I listen to the arrangements I’m provided with or if I come up with picking patterns for a song, it always has that narrative approach already. I’m thinking in storytelling patterns. I need to get the source of a musical idea and I immediately transform that into a mood which will be immediately transformed into storytelling however that looks like… It can be something inspired by a novel, or any kind of literature I read, but it can be something that just came to my attention and then I pick up on it. I try to first install these first brief thoughts about a topic, into the melody lines and yeah as I said at the very end, this always has the narrative approach. Some people say when I sing it sounds like someone is screaming down from the hill like a prophet (laughs) and I would not even disagree with this, there’s always this, even if I sing very quiet, it has that intensity of begging for your attention, and it’s not even the begging it’s a claiming more than a begging.
Alright, thank you, that’s it for my questions, our time is up as well. Do you have any last thoughts to share?
Enjoy this album, that is maybe the essential message here! I hope to come by with BLIND GUARDIAN as soon as possible!
Interview by Laureline Tilkin