BLIND GUARDIAN frontman Hansi Kürsch has quit his long-running project with ICED EARTH's Jon Schaffer, DEMONS & WIZARDS.
Hansi announced his departure from DEMONS & WIZARDS two weeks after Schaffer was arrested for his involvement in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The 52-year-old ICED EARTH guitarist, who resides in in Edinburgh, Indiana, is facing six federal criminal charges after he was accused of spraying a police officer with a pepper-based bear repellant.
Earlier today (Monday, February 1), Kürsch released the following statement: "I notified Jon and Century Media [DEMONS & WIZARDS' record label] on Monday that I was leaving the DEMONS & WIZARDS project with immediate effect. My collaboration with Jon in DEMONS & WIZARDS is over."
Schaffer was still being held at Marion County Jail as of Friday morning (January 29), a week after U.S. Magistrate for the Southern District of Indiana judge Mark Dinsmore signed an order for the musician to appear in D.C.'s district court.
During the insurrection, Jon was photographed wearing an "Oath Keepers Lifetime Member" cap, holding a container of bear spray and "engaging in verbal altercations with Capitol Police inside the Capitol building," according to a federal statement of facts in his case.
The Oath Keepers describe themselves as an association of former law enforcement and military personnel dedicated to "support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." But the Anti-Defamation League describes it as "a large but loosely organized collection of right-wing anti-government extremists who are part of the militia movement, which believes that the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights."
Two days after the insurrection, the members of BLIND GUARDIAN issued a statement distancing themselves from the violence and destruction of property at the U.S. Capitol building.
"We are deeply shocked and our thoughts are with the relatives of the deceased," they wrote on January 8. "We expressly distance ourselves from any kind of violence irrespective if applied against institutions or persons. The incidents will be thoroughly investigated and the responsibles will be brought to justice. We ask for your understanding that in view of the hourly news situation we will not make any further comments at present."
Schaffer has been held in the Marion County Jail since surrendering to police on January 17. He made his first court appearance the following day.
Authorities say Schaffer was photographed and seen on surveillance video carrying a pepper-based bear repellant and arguing with Capitol Police officers inside the Capitol.
Just hours after the insurrection, ICED EARTH fans recognized Schaffer in a photo released by federal investigators in which he could be seen at the front of a mob, wearing black leather fingerless tactical gloves and pointing his finger while yelling at someone out of the frame.
Schaffer is believed to be one of at least 400 people who are being investigated by FBI officials over their roles in the insurrection.
More than 150 criminal cases have been filed so far. Charges include unauthorized access, theft, damage to government property and assault on law enforcement officers.
While Schaffer has not yet said anything publicly about his involvement in the riot, his ICED EARTH bandmates put out a statement on Instagram and Facebook opposing the insurrection.
"We absolutely DO NOT condone nor do we support riots or the acts of violence that the rioters were involved in on January 6th at the US Capitol building," they wrote. "We hope that all those involved that day are brought to justice to be investigated and answer for their actions."
Earlier last month, German daily newspaper Die Welt uploaded a video interview it conducted with Schaffer last November at a Washington, D.C. demonstration supporting Trump and protesting the 2020 presidential election results. In the chat, the guitarist said that "a group of thugs and criminals hijacked this country a long time ago" and warned that "they're messing with the wrong people here. Because now we see you, and you're going down. Mark my words."
Schaffer also seemingly threw his support behind Trump, saying "he's not your typical Republican" and claiming that America's 45th president is "dealing with a criminal mafia that has been in the shadows running the world, frankly, for a very long time. They wanna destroy all of our sovereignty and bring about global government," he added. "We're not having it… It will not happen. There will be a lot of blood shed, if it comes down to that — trust me. The American people will not go for that bullshit — once they understand what's actually happening. So, that's where we're at. Nobody wants this, but they're pushing us to a point where we have no choice."
DEMONS & WIZARDS released its third studio album, "III", in February 2020 via Century Media Records. The LP marked the band's first collection of new material in 15 years.
In a 2019 interview with The Greene Room Magazine, Hansi stated about how DEMONS & WIZARDS was formed: "It started with a friendship. [Jon and I] met each other for the first time in 1991 when we toured together with ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN, and an immediate friendship came to happen because we were alike — in many ways, spiritual brothers from the beginning. And that goes for the two of us, but also for the two bands in general. We had a blast, and ever since, we established a very close friendship. We were not even talking about making music together. By whatsoever reason, more or less seven years later, Jon came to visit me, and we had a hangover morning he started playing guitar. I started humming to it, and we thought, 'Well, that might be the creepy melody to work on. Let's go to the BLIND GUARDIAN rehearsal room and try to do something with it.' Then we called it a song within a short amount of time; it was maybe three, four hours. That song was 'My Last Sunrise' which ended up on the very first album. When doing this song, we just recognized that there's not only a friendship, but a strong spiritual, creative chemistry between the two of us. We said, 'We may want to use that later on for whatever reason or purpose.' We thought about it for a while, and then we said, 'Well, let's use that creativity and do an album.' Then we started working on DEMONS & WIZARDS."
Schaffer talked about his collaboration with Kürsch in a 2020 interview with Myglobalmind. He said: "This is an exercise in brotherhood first and foremost. Hansi and I were very dear friends before we realized that we could write songs together. Writing together actually happened by accident. When it happened, the next question was, what are we going to do with it? The first song we wrote was 'My Last Sunrise' and it was the last song on the first DEMONS album. Initially, we talked about BLIND GUARDIAN and ICED EARTH, each doing a version, but at some point, I just said to Hansi, 'Let's just do our own thing and write a bunch more together.' It has always been about having fun and spending time together, but we do hold the pressure to ourselves in delivering something we are happy with. Nine times out of ten, the fans will be right on board. It's all about satisfying yourself as an artist first; then we let the dice roll."