TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This phone interview with frontman and band leader Rolf Kasparek of the German heavy metal band Running Wild was done by Vincent Eldefors on February 2nd, 2005.
The German band Running Wild first came to life as a school band called Granite Heart back in 1976. Almost 30 years later they are still one of the leaders of the country's heavy metal scene and front man and founding member Rolf "Rock'n'Rolf" Kasparek has more or less been running the pirate ship on his own for some time now. He was kind enough to discuss the new album "Rogues In Vogue", World War I and the Mötley Crüe reunion among other things with us.
Hello, how are you?
I'm fine, thanks.
Your new album "Rogues En Vogue" will be released in a few weeks from now, how do you feel about this album?
Absolute great, you know, because for the first time I really had the time in the studio because the whole record was done in my own studio so for the first I really could take the time to work on everything. In that way I could really work till my satisfaction. For the first time you can hear all the harmony vocals and the choruses and things like that and a totally different guitar sound for each song. For the first time it was a really relaxed working situation even if I had a lot of work with building up the studio inbetween and stuff like that. So, I am really satisfied with everything.
Is this something you have wanted to do for a long time, working in your own studio?
Yeah, because it just showed that the production team behind Running Wild and also the studio we were working in which was the Horus-Sound studio in Hannover, we did about 4-5 weeks and it just turned out through the last album which was "The Brotherhood" that it was really time to go to the next step. It was time to choose a new kind of working situation and I also did guitar overdubs and stuff for "The Brotherhood" in my own studio and it really showed that it would be much better for the working situation. I really felt that it was the beginning of a new period so to speak with this album because everything was totally different. I could go in a completely different direction with this album. I could take a lot more time, normally you have 6 weeks in the studio to do the whole record and then you have to go to the studio and record everything and think about the mixing, not to push over the limit too much. It's really about money what you're doing there because every day costs thousands of Euros. For the first time it was a relaxed situation, we could focus on one thing even if it took a day. It didn't matter, it was a very different working situation than before.
Do you plan to record other bands as well in the studio or is it just for Running Wild?
No, I just did it for my own use so to speak.
Some people have called "The Brotherhood" more of a hard rock album and would like to see Running Wild get heavier again. Do you think they will be satisfied with the new album?
I really think so because when I was writing the material, like I have said before, it wasn't meant to be a more rock oriented album, it just turned out that way through the production of the album. We knew that we had to go to the next step with the production and it was just natural.
The limited version of the album contains two bonus tracks called "Cannibal Tongue" and "Libertalia", what is everyone else missing out on?
They are not real bonus tracks but could also have been on the album. They are really strong songs also. One of my friends who heard the album before the press asked me why I didn't put "Libertalia" on the album since it's one of the strongest tracks. It's because I had to focus on the concept of the album, of the run-through of the album it really should sound organic and fit together as an album. I figured out that "Libertalia" didn't fit in with the record, it doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the song. He said that everyone should go to the stores really quickly on the release date to get a copy of the limited edition because of this track. It's a track that really stands for Running Wild and also it's a quite typical song about pirates and the melodies, the lyrics, the choruses and everything.
Is it different from the other songs of the album?
No, not really different. I couldn't tell you which song had to go on the album but I was focusing on the run-through of the album. In the first place I had planned to have 12 songs on the whole album, that means 10 songs on the normal album. I had written one song which had to be on the normal album which was, as I remember, "Dead Man's Road". I really thought that this song MUST be on the album because it sounded so different from the other songs and it has such a great melody line and such a great hook line. So I put this one on the album and I knew I had to keep two songs as bonus tracks for the limited version because the record company wanted to have a limited version also.
Did you ever think of having Bernd Aufermann playing on the album?
No, because in the first place it was clear that I would do everything on my own like I did on "The Brotherhood". If you look at the rhythm guitars, there are only two albums where I didn't play all the guitars, there was "Gates To Purgatory" and "Under Jolly Roger". I knew from the first place that Running Wild had become a solo project. It was never planned but it came out through the last 20 years so to speak. I knew before Bernd Aufermann was hired for touring that a second guitarist would never play on an album again.
How is it different working with GUN Records instead of Noise?
It is not that different. I know that there were a lot of metal bands who were on GUN Records but went away. They had some problems with GUN Records but it's not always that the record company is guilty because the bands don't sell as many albums anymore. Sometimes it has something to do with the bands themselves. I was on the same label for like 15 years so for the first album with GUN which was "The Rivalry" we had to find a point to come together and find a common direction but after that it was ok and we could really work together. They know that Running Wild should be promoted a little different than the bands they had before like HIM and Guano Apes because it's different music.
So you're happy with their work so far?
Yes, it's really no problem because Running Wild still sells a lot of albums. Even "The Brotherhood" was the most sold album since "Masquerade". There was no reason why I should be worried about anything.
The album opens up with the rebellious "Draw The Line", did you want to send a message to the world by putting that song first?
Yes, before I had the title I had the riff, the main idea of the song ready and it really feels like it hits you, it's a very aggressive song but very held back. Somewhere along "Draw The Line" came to me for the chorus. I figured out the story that everyone can relate to, to say "no more, this is enough". If some teacher is annoying you, friends, parents or someone that pisses you off. Everyone can follow the line and say that they felt this before some time in their life and understand what feels like. This is the kind of aggression that is inside of you, it's how the riff feels to me and it's also why the riff of the song is so unique and unusual for Running Wild because it's the slowest song I've ever done. To put that song first should show that this album is unique, that it's something special.
Yeah, I agree, it's one of my favorites actually.
Also mine [laughs].
You also have an interest in history which is shown especially in the song "The War" which tells the story of World War I, could you tell us more about the lyrics of that song?
It's not really about the war itself. I have studied this for a long time and it's more about the circumstances around that led to the World War. It has nothing to do with what we have learned in school. There were a lot of plans for the first world war, how to do it, made by certain people and had nothing to do with a certain country. They were not on any side or something like that, it was about money and they had plans to wipe out all the monarchies in Europe. They wanted to get rid of the Russian czar, they wanted to get rid of the kaiser of Germany and even get rid of the kaiser of Hungary and Austria. These plans were made in the second half of the 19th century, totally different to what you have learned in school about it [Editor's comment: well, it depends on what school you went to, of course, and also when]. They wanted a new Europe and to make a lot of money out of it. The bankers lent the countries money to go through with the war and afterwards they had to pay a lot more back. The same people did the same thing with the Napoleonic war and also the Russian revolution and the French revolution in the 18th century because they wanted to get rid of the political power in these countries. Imperialism has a lot to do with it.
Was it important to you to have another ten minute epic to finish off the album with?
No, it's not that I feel forced to do that but when I had the basic idea for the song two years ago it was sure that it would tell a story and if you want to tell a very complicated story it should not only be in the lyrics but also in the mood of the song. Even if you have a look at the song for the first time it is a very unusual song for Running Wild because it never leads back to where we started, it's a song that goes through a lot of different moods of the people who went to the war. There are real military marches in the middle of the song. Everyone, not only Germans, went to the war and thought of it as kind of fun. They thought, we go there and have some fun and come back with perfumes for our girlfriends and everything. They really thought it would be an easy war but it turned out to be an absolute catastrophy. For the first time war was totally different from what it was before. All wars before had been man to man, for the first time there were tanks and machine guns, gas bombs and everything so it was totally different than they had ever expected it to be like. No-one was capable of stopping this madness because it was such a well planned situation to go through with the war and it's interesting to look and see that things are different in reality than what it looks like.
You have had a lot of people coming in and out of the band throughout the years, have you kept in touch with any of your former members?
No, not really. From time to time, when Grave Digger and Running Wild were on the same label I met Jens Becker who is playing the bass there. And also Hasche (Wolfgang Hagemann, former drummer of the band) I met at the Wacken Open Air festival where he did an interview with me for a TV station. From time to time we get a telephone call but most of them I never saw again.
What inspires you to write music and lyrics today, is it the same as it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago?
Yes, but the political situation is changing. Politicians are lying easier today than they did 20 years ago and they don't feel bad about it [laughs]. If you have a look at the Gulf War which is the best example for that. They said they had mass destruction weapons and that they wanted to free the Iraqi people but the only thing they did was put people in jail and I don't think that is part of freeing the people. In the first place they wanted the oil and everyone knows that. It's more obvious what they really want than it was 20 years ago. They were more technical 20 years ago.
Do you ever write any music that don't fit on a Running Wild album?
No, not really. When I play some riffs on the guitar to myself just to practice it's not really something I want to work on. When I'm writing music for a Running Wild album I don't think "can I do it or not, is this Running Wild or not", it just happens naturally. All ideas that come have something to do with Running Wild, even if it's a new song like "Draw The Line" or something like that. In the end it fits for Running Wild.
Do you follow the modern metal scene and, if so, are there any bands that have impressed you?
I honestly have to say that, especially during the last two years, I have absolutely no time to keep an eye on that. I was busy with my studio and all the stuff I have to do for Running Wild because I was actually in the studio working straight since I finished "The Brotherhood" tour so I have absolute no clue what is going on on the scene.
Have you heard bands like Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Hammerfall and Masterplan? What do you think about them?
Yeah, I know them. In the first place, Hammerfall went really well with growing as musicians and as a band. I saw them some years ago, it must have been 2001 or something like that, and they were great live. Two years before they were awful live and it was really great to see them growing but I haven't heard their last album. Masterplan I have only heard the single on TV and when I have finished all the stuff I have to do now I want to keep an eye more on music. I listen to different kinds of music, not only metal, but during the last two years I haven't had the time to keep an eye on any other music than Running Wild.
When and how did the idea of the Running Wild tribute album come up?
It came from the fans and started on the homepage. Fans said that they would really like to have a Running Wild tribute album but NOT with big bands where the record companies pick a song that they have to do just to sell records. They wanted to have bands who were fans of Running Wild who could choose the song best suited for themselves. The bands came out and did the songs, they even paid the studio themselves so it was a real thing from the fans to the fans. I said I could handle everything with the record companies and things like that but Modern Music, or back then Sanctuary Records, didn't want to do it because there were no big bands on it. They said it wouldn't sell as much as it had for them to do it. One month ago I heard that Remedy Records would do it and it's really a different tribute album because it is made by the fans to the fans. Normally it's just a commercial thing and that's why I usually don't like tribute albums too much.
The release date is rather close now but still there have been no tour dates or festival appearances revealed, will people be able to see you get back on stage soon?
When I have finished all the interviews and promotion I have to discuss with a lot of different booking agencies of which I have to choose one to work with for the next tour because I fired the one I was working with last year so I have to find a new one. It's planned to do a more full-size European tour around May or something like that, that's our plan from before but it also depends on the booking agency when, where and how many shows we will do.
When you play festivals like Wacken, do you ever watch other bands?
At Wacken I saw Victory who played before us and did a reunion show and I just watched 20 minutes or something like that because all throughout the day I had so much work and things to do because we promoted "20 Years Of History". That's why we really didn't have a chance to keep an eye on the other bands. Also, we played on a day when only four bands play so it was not a big day but it turned out to be a big day because we had like 15,000 people there. It was a great show because the fans were in the right mood, the band was in the right mood and there was something spiritual about the show.
Way back in 1985 you opened up for Mötley Crüe in Germany, do you remember what that was like?
It was great because for the first time we could play in front of a lot of people who had never heard Running Wild before. It was a really great thing for us to play in front of a lot of people who could become Running Wild fans after that and did. Mötley Crüe really treated us very well so there was no problem. Everything was fixed for us, we had a soundcheck every night and everything. It was great.
What do you think about Mötley Crüe reuniting?
I think in the first place it has something to do with money [laughs]. When you look at what especially Tommy Lee said a few years ago, I don't think he has changed his mind, only that his account has changed, all the money is gone and I think that's the only reason why he is doing this. I'm not a fan of that kind of reunions. Also, if you look at the reunion of Judas Priest, the only thing that counts there is money. I don't think that is a reason to live up to anything which was really great back then.
Anything else going on with Running Wild right now? What do the nearest plans look like?
We have a release party on February 18th and on the 21st is the release date. I have a lot of interviews and stuff like that to do before that. After that, like I said before, we have to think about a new booking agency and the range and size of the tour we want to do. After that I also have to get in touch with the record companies who want Running Wild for the future because this record is the last one for GUN Records. These are things that take time but first of all I want to see how the record goes because it's easier to discuss with record companies if you have an album that sold well.
That was pretty much it, do you have any final words for the fans?
Yeah, we hope to have the opportunity on this tour to play in front of a lot more fans than we did before and do a lot more countries than we did before. I also really hope that we could go to the East and do some shows there
Well, nice talking to you and thanks a lot for this interview.
Yeah, thanks. Bye.
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