The epic-voiced Hansi Kürsch sat down with me one perfect, early fall evening in Chicago about week ago to chat about Demons & Wizards. We spoke about their first ever tour here as the band in the US, what's next for the outfit, and how fantasy has influenced the band and Hansi as a performer. Kürsch's calm, friendly, chatty demeanor during our conversation is quite a departure from the stage-commanding, rip-roaring lead singer that he presents night after night with Demons & Wizards. Read on to find out what's going on with D&W and who Hansi's favorite wizards and favorite demons are!
Boring tour questions first. How's the tour going?
It's not boring, It's very entertaining.
Why now? It's crazy to me that this is the first time you've come here as Demons & Wizards.
It's surprising for us as well. We were talking about getting together again and doing an album for a long time – for the last 7 years. I'm lucky to have him so, two years ago we both realized that we were running into the end of a cycle with Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. So we said well, lets use the opportunity and do something. So we arranged a period for song writing and all of the sudden, out of nothingness we got a request to headline Wacken [Open Air].
Was that really from out of nowhere?
Because I feel like all of the sudden you're everywhere – you've exploded everywhere. You're not only touring here but you're touring major European circuits.
Wacken was first. We were really intending first to just do some songwriting and then maybe after finishing an album maybe doing some touring for it. The time to do some touring. We thought maybe 2020, maybe 2021. Most likely 2020. And then, we got the request for Wacken 2019 – well we have to change plans a little bit because the the [chuckling] touring comes first before the album. But, be it. We wanted to take up the opportunity, we wanted to take up the challenge and just go for Wacken. We need to have some warm-up shows before when once that was announced that was announced that we were looking for warm-up shows other festivals came up and offered us, ya know, quite important spots on their lineups on their festivals and well. Once the train started rolling everything just was set up for the US tour as well the same thing happened here. Jon's manager spoke to who was also managing Demons & Wizards for the US, he spoke to a booker and he immediately got the run of tours as well.
Yeah you have like 28-30 shows or something like that.
In total, maybe 30 yeah I don't know. Here for the US including Canada, its like 30 shows or something.
That's incredible. Thank you for being here.
Yeah, it is nice!
Is it different than being here with Blind Guardian? Is it different somehow? Because you have a queue out the wazoo out here. They're stoked, the fans are so excited to see you.
[Hansi laughs] Chicago is also special uh compared to many other cities. Yeah, we're surprised. I'm really surprised. I expected it to be of interest for people and it is a little different to what, you know, what we usually do here with Blind Guardian and for Jon with Iced Earth I would assume. It is maybe, a, indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Really, for you?
Yeah, we do not know, yeah –
I feel like you would be welcome anywhere in the metal community.
Oh, yes, I know. I am not concerned, you know, about my future. And I will come to the US a couple of times in the future with Blind Guardian and for sure Jon with Iced Earth here, but, I really cannot say what we do with Demons & Wizards. We have all the freedom in the world and that's the nice thing about it. So it is very special.
Did you mention that you working on another album?
Yeah we finished most of the recordings. Uhm, I will have to do some more singing that just happens after we finish here in Atlanta. And, basically, there is just mixing. so in October I guess we will finish with everything. The album is supposed to be released in February of 2020.
I'm so excited!
So am I!
So why now after 20 years? Is this a new place to put your energy into? Have you run out of steam with Blind Guardian?
Oh, I mean, the main priorities are Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. We just had a little bit that little bit of a gap to do something with Demons & Wizards and Demons & Wizards is a fun project and should stay a fun project.
Is that why Demons & Wizards started to begin with?
Yeah. It was by accident more or less. After 7, 8, years we had that spot where Jon was in my house, we had a hangover, and literally was just playing guitar and I started humming and that's how it started. We just thought, well, lets do something with it. The humming was good, the picking as good so we went to the Blind Guardian studio with that song that later turned out to be "My Last Sunrise" and then even at that point we didn't really think about having a band together. We said well we have to use that song, it's a strong song either we use it for Blind Guardian live or Iced Earth or something else or give it to someone else, that is up in the air. And then we started a discussion was the initial point when all of a sudden , ah maybe could ya know see if songwriting goes smooth if we keep on doing it. And that has been the case. So we said let's do an album first and then see what will just come out of it. Then, Touched By The Crimson King came short after which means 5 years after, or 4 years after. I can't even recall exactly.
Can you believe you have this kind of an audience with just two albums that are almost 20 years old?
Yeah, no, [Hansi laughs] This is also the legacy of the two bands Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, so…
I'd be lying if I said there wasn't that influence, but Demons & Wizards is very stand-alone though. No one is doing stuff like you guys now in the popular metal-sphere.
Yeah! You're right! Though I never feel underappreciated. But maybe because there was a 15 year break and the attention was on the other bands. I never felt underprivileged with either band. I always felt quite quite blessed with how we were received and I was quite confident about the quality. And I believe that is the main secret for all of these 3 bands, uh, they supply quality and people are expecting quality. What I believe now with these few shows which now we are having that many people will become aware of Demons and Wizards and the intensity.
Intensity is the perfect word for it. I wanted to talk to you talk about the themes of Demons & Wizards. You sing about a lot of fantasy, books in particular. You've mentioned The Portrait of Dorian Grey and The Gunslinger by Stephen King.
It's inspiring for me. In a lot of cases the music would just be compulsed without really having a direction. In a lot of cases.
Do you find yourself lost in fantasy a lot? Is this a good outlet for you?
Yeah, it is a good outlet for me. I wouldn't say I'm lost in fantasy, but I like to express with it. Especially with the Dark Tower series and other books like Dorian of course, and there's so much living with the story, and so much more to express with it.
Are there other influences?
On the upcoming albums I mention the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson. Which is to me one of the two best books I've read in the last twenty years. The song we are having is about an assassin who plays a very vital role in the story, and he has super powers. What I like about The Stormlight Archives is that this guy gives you a story – he's a very good story teller, but he does not explain everything precisely. You know, this is a world with a very different function in many ways- there are different laws of gravity, you can be manipulated, and he's not even trying to explain it, you have to accept it you have to find your way through. And once, and I am sure almost everyone can get through it, then it's just an amazing read.
So, Demons and Wizards, right? Do you prefer Gandalf or Merlin?
That's a tough choice. I mean like I like all the wizards.
ALL the wizards? I bet you like all the demons, too.
I have one, and he's in the band and he's teaching me to become a demon as well soo…
What the difference between the original recordings and the new remasters of Demons & Wizards and Touched By The Crimson King?
Someone told me yesterday that record sales are booming a lot more. The new recording has a lot more tension in the remaster. Bigger dynamic obviously. In terms of adjusting it to now-days listening abilities of people, you need to compete with what other bands are doing for streaming services. You need to shine in such playlists with other bands. It has a wider range, and it is louder.
Thank you for your time tonight, and for letting me into your space! Have a great show!
Catch Demons & Wizards on tour now for an incredible show with incredible musicians. Check out the recent TBT on their albums to get caught up on all that is Demons & Wizards!