BLOODSTOCK INTERVIEW: Frederik Ehmke – Blind Guardian

BLIND GUARDIAN are one of the biggest bands in both power metal and in metal itself. With their enormous and epic soundscape, the German metallers are revered in the global metal community. Testament to this is the band landing the sub-headlining slot at this year’s Bloodstock Festival (read our review of that performance here) and before their performance, we caught up with drummer Frederik Ehmke to discuss the band’s relationship with Bloodstock, the relevance of power metal in 2017 and a glimpse into what the future holds for BLIND GUARDIAN!

So this is the first time BLIND GUARDIAN have played Bloodstock since 2009, how does it feel to be back?

Frederik: It’s nice that you mentioned that because we were discussing it in the bus that it was either 2010 or 2009. Yeah, it’s great to be back and as always I wonder why is time running so quickly. It can’t already be eight years since we’ve last played. We’re happy to be here and we’re happy to see that the tickets have sold out, things are going really well for the festival. We’re really looking forward to playing.

Has it changed much since you last played in 2009?

Frederik: Actually I remember a lot of things from then, it was my first time playing here with BLIND GUARDIAN. The rest of guys played in 2002 but it was indoors. I recognise a lot of it, especially with the circus tents, so it looks familiar. The rest I cannot tell yet, lets see how the fans are and what mood they are in. The weather is kind of comparable let’s hope it doesn’t change much!

Your performance tonight is the sub-headline slot to AMON AMARTH. Do you have anything special planned for this performance?

Frederik: For our terms, we have a short set which is always due to festival times so in these cases we have to pick a best of set to present a lot of the BLIND GUARDIAN classics. The stuff that everybody wants to hear. So, that’s basically what you can expect and I think that makes the best sense so we can introduce ourselves to people who are not familiar with our music.

When Bloodstock first started back in the early 2000s it was predominately a power metal festival. With the fact that you have played the festival several times, how important is Bloodstock to BLIND GUARDIAN?

Frederik: Well it is a festival and like I said, festivals are very important for attracting new people and introducing ourselves to people who might not know us so it’s always good to play. It’s always fun, I like the festival part maybe the most because sometimes we’ll play some shows and then have time off and then do some more shows. I think festivals are more relaxed, and you see all the nice people you meet behind the scenes, you meet them all at the festivals! I mean, sometimes some will come to one of your shows but the majority of friends meeting is at the festivals.

Yeah, festivals are always like a big friendship group meeting up…

Frederik: The metal community compared to other music scenes is pretty small and you bump into each other very often on these festivals.

I think that’s one of its biggest strengths, that’s what it feeds off…

Frederik: Yeah, it makes the community feel connected.

This performance is still on the back of Beyond The Red Mirror. Now that record has been out for a number of years, have you enjoyed the reception?

Frederik: Of course! Our main tour in 2015-16 for that album worked really well and I should mention that the US tour was so successful we had to do a second leg last year and that was really nice to go back for another five weeks. It was really the first time we got our foot into that door. We’ve toured the whole world again and it’s been fun and the record has been well received everywhere.

And now that is has been out for a number of years, have you started progress with the next record?

Frederik: [laughs] yes we did! I have to start with my drums anyway in the first place for the recordings so there were already ideas collected and I’ve already started the recordings.

So is it still very early days?

Frederik: It’s early yes, it is pretty early and we do it step by step and the main focus right now is finalising the orchestral project that should be first. Since we are already collecting ideas we’ve decided to go with the same technique as we did for Beyond The Red Mirror. If a song is ready and we’re happy with it, we will record it right away to get our heads clear to focus on the next song.

Because BLIND GUARDIAN are such an influential band in your own genre and in metal itself, when it comes to writing new material do you feel a lot of pressure?

Frederik: I mean a lot of people are asking “when is the next album coming out?” and all that but we’ve always taken the luxury of taking our time and working on all the details. As long as we’re working and we’re happy with it and then coming out with the release. With the orchestral project which has been running for like 20 years is maybe the best proof that we won’t release it just because the time is due. I understand the feeling that fans are expecting it but after all, I think the result is better and more valuable than rushing it and releasing it when it is only half ready.

With BLIND GUARDIAN being as influential as you are, in terms of power and classic metal which has been having a revival through the rise of bands like SABATON for example. Do you think that there is still a place for it today?

Frederik: Sure, the success of SABATON proves that there is, but I just don’t see us in the same corner. Maybe we came from there once but we are definitely more towards the symphonic and story telling. The songs develop and tell their own story and this is something that we don’t share with the typical power metal bands. There are more layers under the surface, more details that you can find. I think with classical music and the approach to composing, we start at a point and develop it and it go in all kinds of directions. I think that classical aspect fits so well to the band’s sound.

And really just to round up, once you have finished playing at Bloodstock, what’s next for BLIND GUARDIAN?

Frederik: We only have touring until the end of August and a couple more festivals in there. And then we are totally focusing on the studio, I don’t know when the next live show will be.

Well brilliant, best of luck for your performance and for the future!

Frederik: Cheers, thank you.

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