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Marcus Siepen (Blind Guardian)

Interview with Marcus Siepen from Blind Guardian
by Maria Voutiriadou, Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 19 December 2010, 11:12 PM

BLIND GUARDIAN were about to storm Chicago (read the report here) and METAL TEMPLE with the kind help of the band’s manager managed to meet Marcus Siepen and had a really friendly discussion about the new album, the tour, the “Lord Of The Rings” soundtrack and many more!

You’ve been in Canada playing live there; how was it?
We played 3 shows so far in Canada and we’ll go back at the end of the week. It was great! Canadian audiences are very very good but it was also very cold (laughs). Canada has been great for BLIND GUARDIAN always since the first time we played there and it’s always a pleasure to go there.

What about the US? Do you think is a little bit strange, cause the US audience is more into the metalcore and stuff like that and they don’t listen to the European power Metal?
It’s very good, what I can see is the audience’s reaction is different in the shows but the audience comes to our shows is all time BLIND GUARDIAN fans. They have the circle pits, doing crowd surf and stuff like that which is not happening often in Europe. They are setting walls of death at some gigs and the crowd’s reaction is so warm about BLIND GUARDIAN. They sing every single word, they enjoy the show just as everybody else on stage.

Let’s go to the new album; first of all, you worked with a live orchestra?

Was it different for you, the music process working with an orchestra?
The composing process work pretty much the same because in the composing process obviously there is no live orchestra in the rehearsal room, so Andréused his keyboard and only later we had to get a partiture audio orchestra because obviously you can’t give to a 19 people orchestra a tape and tell them ‘listen to that and then, please play something like that’. So, we had some people that turned the keyboard orchestration into a partiture for the real orchestra.

So, you didn’t change anything in the BLIND GUARDIAN music.
No, absolutely not.

Have you ever thought doing a live concert having a live orchestra on stage?
It would be great of course but this is something that you can’t do on a tour because obviously you can’t take 19 people on top with us and that would be very expensive. It would be great to do something like this in a special occasion, a festival or something like that. That would be very nice but has to be very well prepared because I think having an orchestra on stage changes everything for us because you have just to volume on stage and create the space for such big amount of people.

So, are you using in the live concerts pre-recorded material?
We play “Sacred Worlds” and “Wheel Of Time” live so, for those two songs the orchestration comes from a computer, yes.

Is it different for you when you’re playing the guitar that you have to be aware not to lose the tempo?
No, because we have to do this all the time (laughs)! I mean it doesn’t matter if I have to keep the timing into drum kit or into orchestra coming from wherever, you always have to be on time because we want to be tight…

(interrupting)… sometimes things get a little bit faster…
Not with us because we play with click track (something like a metronome); every song was played with click track so, we stay in time. That’s why changes for us: we play to this strict time in any way so, that’s perfectly fine.

You have actually changed the drum player some years ago; did that influence the music of BLIND GUARDIAN in any way?
Frederik brings his own style of course, he was always been a BLIND GUARDIAN die-hard fan, we have been his favorite band before he joined so, he’s obviously familiar to the typical kind of BLIND GUARDIAN drum style. But obviously he brings also in his own elements which of course change a bit compared to what Thomen was playing. In general the drums in BLIND GUARDIAN have a much focused way of sound and it’s not that we completely changed that.

Have you ever felt restricted in any way having that focused sound in the band?
No, I mean this is the music that we all love and want to play so, we don’t feel restricted in any way. This is exactly what we want to do. I think BLIND GUARDIAN are also known for being very open for any kind of experiments; I mean we started as a speed Metal band back in the 80s but there are so much that came into our music. There are some progressive elements, very epic and orchestral stuff, some folkloristic stuff; we are very open in any kind of music so there are no restrictions.

Listening to your new album, I kinda felt that you took all your albums and put it in one.
It’s not that we said that ‘let’s do this’, but it happened like this, I agree. I think this album captures everything that BLIND GUARDIAN has ever been about and that’s why I LOVE THIS ALBUM VERY MUCH because it has everything that we stand for, it has very fast and progressive stuff from the early days, it has never been more epic and orchestral with “Wheel Of Time” or “Sacred Worlds” finally with the real orchestration. There are new elements on top of all, like this oriental stuff. So, for me that’s the ultimate BLIND GUARDIAN album.

Can you compete that in the next album?
We’ll try at least (laughs).

There were some rumors about BLIND GUARDIAN contributing into “The Lord Of The Rings” soundtrack. Is there any truth in that?
There were talks about it; we had contacted Peter Jackson’s team but we never even handed some stuff. It was the wrong timing but we would like to do something like that. I like soundtracks a lot, for me this orchestral basis comes from soundtracks, not from the classical music. I love the atmosphere that a soundtrack can create and it would be cool doing something like that. But it’s not easy I think and we wouldn’t sacrifice the Metal band to get a job as soundtrack composers or anything like that.

In the line up, beside your name there is the line ‘rhythm guitar player’. So, what is your contribution in the lead parts?
Especially in life there is so much harmony; I am also doing all the second voices. There is a couple of songs where I play solos like “Lord Of The Rings” for example I play the lead. And that’s perfectly fine for me because I actually I prefer playing the rhythm, it’s not that I sit there and I want to play lead and someone doesn’t allow me to. I’m a rhythm guy, you know. When I think of guitar players, I think of the riffs. When I think of Ritchie Blackmore I don’t think of the solo, I think of the riffs of “Burn” or stuff like that. Also, I associate the songs that I like with riffs, not with leads. So, I’m perfectly fine with that.

Actually, you have been pretty much a very stable line up; is there a golden recipe for that?
Not actually, we just respect each other, we understand each other, we still want the same things, we have the same focus, and we still enjoy what we do; nothing that is ‘the secret’. It’s just logic. I don’t think that is that difficult. It works perfectly fine for us.

You have Oliver as the bass player; again, in the line up says that is a session musician. He has nothing to do with the writing?
…which he is. He is not a member of BLIND GUARDIAN, he comes in when we want to record something or go on tour and we call him. If he is available, it’s fine. But he is not a permanent member of the band and we could say that he is the permanent guest musician. The same about the keyboarder; BLIND GUARDIAN was always a four-piece band and we have no intention at all to change this.

What about Hansi getting on the bass again?
Never say never but I doubt if this will happen. When he came to us and said he’d like to stop playing the bass so he can focus in the vocals, he wanted to try the option to maybe play the bass again in the future but I seriously doubt that he still wants it and he will do it some day. On the other hand, that’s a question only Hansi can answer but I think it works perfectly fine like this.

What about the setlist in the live performance: have you prepared different things for the US tour than the European?
No, we prepared 45 songs and that’s the same for US, Europe, whatever. We prepared all those and we changed the setlist a bit every day so, of course there are some songs repeated in every show but there are also parts in the setlist we keep changing every day because we don’t like to play the very same set over and over again with the danger of the boring routine and we want to avoid this. Also, many fans come to more than one show and they want to see different setlist. So, normally we play 15-17 songs every night and there are always 2-3 changes but the basic set of songs stays the same.

What is the most difficult BLIND GUARDIAN song to perform live for you?
Oh (continuously growling)! “A Voice In The Dark” is very demanding because it’s very fast and you gotta be very precise and if you want to move on stage a bit while you’re playing it, you can’t get tricky.

And what about your favorite BLIND GUARDIAN track?
It changes; you know, I could give you a title now and then, if you asked me 10 minutes later, I would tell you a different one. It completely depends on my mood that I am in the moment you’re asking. Right now, I would pick “Wheel Of Time”. Come back in one hour and you’ll get a different answer from me (laughs).

Ok, the last words are yours.
Since you are from Greece, we will be in Greece in May I think so…

They are expecting you!
I hope so and we expect a good performance from the audience too! Greece is always pretty cool and we always have lots of fun!


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Edited 31 January 2023

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