Prior to DEMONS & WIZARDS' August 17 performance in Los Angeles, vocalist Hansi Kürsch (also of BLIND GUARDIAN) and guitarist Jon Schaffer (also of ICED EARTH) spoke with Allie Jorgensen of LA Metal Media magazine. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On coordinating their respective schedules to make the group's long-awaited third album, due out in February:
Hansi: "We just found our way somehow. There was a little bit of German maintenance and American spontaneity, so he called me and said, 'It's about time,' and we just took up the opportunity."
Jon: "It's mostly finished. Hansi's still got a couple songs to sing, and after we do our gig at ProgPower in Atlanta, we go to Tampa and then we'll get back to it. We'll finish vocals and mix and get this done. It's killer — it's going to be great."
On writing the album:
Jon: "There's three songs that I worked up arrangements for about three years ago and sent to Hansi. Then ICED EARTH was on the 'Incorruptible' cycle, so I had to finish that up. He had done some vocal melodies and arrangements over the demos. [It] sounded cool, but we had to kind of put it on ice until I finished up the 'Incorruptible' cycle. I started [again] in October after we had meetings in Germany... then I started writing the musical arrangements, demoed those up and sent them to Hansi. He started working on vocal melodies, and we got together in February. We finalized arrangements from where we were at at that point, and then we pretty much immediately started tracking drums, bass, rhythm guitars, lead guitars, solos, all the MIDI stuff. Then I went to Europe for the summer... by the time we get to October, what we've accomplished in a year, it's incredible."
On touring in America:
Hansi: "We like to be indoor. It's always a little more of a real live feeling if you play in a venue and have people closer to you. We are both appreciating this, and it is what we're used to. In theory, we've done 1,000, 2,000 shows, so we're capable in both directions. I would say we try to treat it the same, but the energy's slightly different, because the audience is closer to you, so you get an immense response, and you build up on this. I really appreciate playing such shows, but it's not a small show — not at all."
Jon: "There's something really awesome about the festivals, but the photography pits are always so huge, and they're far away, and in these places, you have this immediate energy exchange. I always liked it better. The festivals are cool, but there's something about being indoors. I'll always prefer that vibe."
On opting not to perform any new songs during the tour:
Hansi: "We decided at the very beginning of rehearsals not to do so. We were considering that for a second, but it would be a waste, because that is the first time people are going to listen to a new song. They're all high-quality songs, and they deserve a first, accurate reception."
Jon: "If it would have been 15 years ago, we may have done it, but we don't want on a global level the first thing people hear from DEMONS & WIZARDS in 15 years is a shitty recorded YouTube [video] from somebody's phone, and once that starts, there's no way to stop it. We really want to have that immediate impact of, 'We're back and we mean business.'"
Hansi: "In theory, these songs are also new because we have performed some of them for the very first time live within this year, and some of them have been performed [only] 10 times before. This is actually the first real DEMONS & WIZARDS tour, so these songs are our brand new songs for the audience."
On the recently released remastered versions of the group's first two albums:
Jon: "With the remasters, we wanted to bring it up to [today's standards]. The volumes were significantly lower back then. The way things are being mastered nowadays, everything's quite a bit louder. We're not getting into the volume wars thing, but they're louder than the old versions are... At some point, I would love to remix these records too. When you start messing with the mastering of such an old recording, when you start bringing things up, there's a delicate balance between the lead vocal getting lost, which you can never let happen. You've got to be really careful about how you go and do a remaster. At some point, it's better just to remix, and both of these records would benefit from a remix. If we get to that some day in the future, it'd be really cool."
Hansi: "These are timeless albums, I think. Neither ICED EARTH nor BLIND GUARDIAN ever did an album which was not top-notch, and the same can be said about DEMONS & WIZARDS. There's a reason — and it's a justified reason — for people being so thrilled about this reunion. We never stopped — it was just impossible. There are very demanding schedules for both bands, and we just took the opportunity. What we came up with within this short amount of time is amazing. People will really love it, so they can keep up the high expectations."
Jon: "There's a serious magic chemistry between us and the way we write songs. At the end of the day, that makes it timeless. We knew that we had something special, but when you constantly get asked through the years over and over and over again, you realize they don't forget. The questions never stop, and after so many years, I think it says something about the chemistry. There's a lot of supergroups or people who get together and do projects, and I feel like we're really blessed. It's like the legend grew over time."
On the modern music industry:
Jon: "The streaming thing, I think the royalty rates are a joke. It's terrible. I don't like the feeling of being a traveling t-shirt salesman. That's what it feels like sometimes, because of where things have gone, but at the same time, the Internet has globalized the popularity of the bands. It has spread internationally, and if I go back to the beginnings of my career, it was very much regional. At first, it was Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and then it started to grow, and then it moved to North America because of the efforts and the pressure that we put on the label and the work that we did ourselves. Then it got to the point where the Internet became something to where ICED EARTH has been able to play in China and Russia and Israel and New Zealand and Australia. It's a global thing now. A lot of it has to do with the access of people being able to hear and see the band on the Internet globally, so that's a cool thing."
DEMONS & WIZARDS will release its third album early next year via Century Media Records.