Running Wild interview with Rock ‘n’ Rolf
conducted by: Carlos M. Llanas
Metal has very many genres; you got black metal, thrash metal, traditional heavy metal, doom, etc., but only one band has been the reigning champion of their own style…that band…is Running Wild. With the release of their third studio album "Under Jolly Roger", Running Wild created a style that was unique and energetic. Also, it was the first album to introduce their signature "Pirate Metal" image and sound. Taking influences from historic events and literature, Running Wild frontman Rock ‘n’ Rolf Kasparek’s charismatic stage presence, and phenomenal writing prowess made Running Wild the band to see for many years. In 2009, Rolf announced the end of Running Wild. Thankfully, that didn’t last for long. Now, Running Wild is back! and with a new album to boot. Their fifteenth studio album "Shadowmaker" was released last April, and thanks to Metal-Rules, I had the opportunity to chat with one of my all-time heroes about it.
How are you doing today Rolf?
Rolf: I’m doing fine! Thank you.
Your new studio effort "Shadowmaker" was released in Germany on April 20th, then in Europe and the U.S. a few days later via SPV/Steamhammer! Can you talk to us about how the recording, and writing process of the album was?
Rolf: Well, the writing process went really fast. The first song I started writing was "Piece of the Action"; I did the song in ten minutes or something like that. It took me a while to record the demo and everything for it though. The writing process was done in a very short period of time; most of the songs took me about half an hour to write the arrangement and everything. When it came down to the production, I took a good team with me, because it gave me the opportunity to focus on the things that I really needed to, which was to play guitar, to sing, and to overlook the whole production. I’ve got an assistant, and she did a lot to help me as-well. I also had Niki Nowy who did a lot of the production for me; he’s a great engineer. Overall, it was a very relaxed situation for me, because I was really only focusing on singing and playing guitar.
"Shadowmaker" will be your fifteenth full-length release. Is it safe to say that Running Wild will continue to put out albums in the future?
Rolf: There will be another one. I have some ideas, but I haven’t had the time to write the songs down because I’ve been very busy with interviews and all of the promotional stuff. I will put it all down of tape as soon as I’m done.
Four years after "Rogues en Vogue" you announced the end of Running Wild. What was the reason for your retirement? Also, the reason for your triumphant return?
Rolf: Well, after I did "Rogues en Vogue" and the tour following it, I started another project called Toxic Taste; just a fun project you know? It was not meant to be very successful or anything like that. We just did it because we wanted to. It was pretty much more of a punk, rock ‘n’ roll opera project so to speak. I figured out how easy it was to write the songs, because we could do anything we wanted to. The writing process for "Rogues en Vogue" was difficult for me, and I figured that I really needed a break. I, myself, said bye to Running Wild around 2006. Then, at the Wacken show in 2009, we said goodbye to the public, and the fans. In around 2010, some record companies came up with the idea to re-record some of the material from the first nine records, because they are no longer available; the ones who own the rights today won’t put it out again. So, we came up with the idea to re-record a total of twenty songs on two disks. They said "Okay…now we need some bonus tracks" and I said "Well…I don’t have any songs" because I had stopped doing Running Wild. I then told them "I have some ideas…bits and pieces…I’m going to try and write some songs". Like I said before, the first song I started writing was "Piece of the Action", and I thought the song was too strong to waste it on a bonus track. The second one I wrote is actually the second one on the album titled "Riding on the Tide", and it was done in half an hour or something like that. That’s when I said "Okay, the song material that I am writing comes out so easy and so strong that I just can’t waste them as bonus tracks". If I write four bonus songs, that’s already half an album. If I write four more, I have a full album, so it made more sense to me, and to the record companies as-well. So I wrote a new album, because it felt right again, and because I regained my passion to do Running Wild. It was just the right thing to do.
I noticed that the album art is very different than its predecessors. You’ve always had very intricate and colorful cover art, like "Under Jolly Roger" "Black Hand Inn" and "Pile of Skulls" for example. Why the change?
Rolf: When I first had the idea of "Shadowmaker", and when I began to write the song, I quickly knew that it was going to be the title track of the album. The "Shadowmaker" is the debt collector of the universe so to speak; he comes during judgement day to collect all the souls who have done evil. It’s a science fiction story; it is also based on old prophecies, and the bible. It’s a story that I’ve been working around with. I just wanted to have a logo-like cover, which shows the helmet of the "Shadowmaker"; almost like a trademark. Another reason was that I really wanted to make sure this was a new start for Running Wild. Starting in the present and heading towards the future; not looking back at the past. Also, if you walk into a store today and you see all the "Metal" album covers…they all look the same. They are all very colorful and there is just so much going on that you need a magnifying glass to see everything. I really wanted to have a cover that is different.
On "Shadowmaker" you also strayed away from the pirate inspired lyrical content and music. It is still there, just not as much as your previous releases. Why did you decide to take a different approach on what has worked for you for many years?
Rolf: The pirate stuff was always there. It was part of the image of Running Wild, but this album also deals with different stuff. There are two titles on the album that are completely pirate inspired, which are "Riding on the Tide" and "Sailing Fire". They are great songs, absolutely, but they were not meant to be the title track. It doesn’t mean that I will never use it again; it just wasn’t necessary for this album.
In the beginning, what interested you and intrigued you about pirates that convinced you to write the amazing songs that you did? Songs like "Tortuga Bay" "The Privateer" "Riding the Storm"?
Rolf: Well, it all started with the song "Under Jolly Roger". I was writing songs for the third album, and I had this good riff down. Well, it was 1987, and there was this movie out called "Pirates" with Walter Matthau and Roman Polanski. I took notice of that, and I got the idea for the concept. It became the title track, so we did the album cover pirate inspired as well. We also changed our live shows around it too; we wore pirate clothing and had props too. So we became the "Pirate Metal" band. I became really interested in it, so I read a lot of books about it. I wanted to know how these guys were in real life, like how they lived, and how they thought in their time. I thought to myself, "No one has ever done this before" it fit so great, and the melodies of heavy metal, for that matter, was even greater. Even if you just think about pirates, you can get musical ideas. It is all on how to write the music. I wrote like if I was writing for a pirate movie or something like that.
While you were writing "Shadowmaker" you said the process was very fast. What was your motivation and your inspiration for the lyrics, riffs, and overall song composition that made the process so quick?
Rolf: Well, it was pretty strange actually. When I had the idea of "Shadowmaker" I was reading a lot of books about prophecies and other things like that, so I got interested in that stuff. I figured that "Shadowmaker" would fit great together with this same subject of prophecies and certain parts of the bible. On the album though, there are a lot of different topics that I wrote about. Songs like "Piece of the Action" and "Me and the Boys" for example, were more rock songs. I get my inspirations from books, sometimes stuff that interest me will come on the television, and I get some inspiration out of it; there are totally different things that influences me.
I must say, it’s pretty hard for us here in the U.S., we get no Running Wild here. The last time you were here was a very long time ago. Any chances of you coming back one more time just to say "Hello" to us?
It’s pretty hard to say. This year we will not play any shows, because we have so much work to do. All the promotional work will take all summer, so there are is no chance to play festivals. We have plans to do shows and festivals the upcoming year. I really haven’t had the time to make up my mind on what I want to do, and what I don’t want to do. I go step by step, because it is also new for me. I never planed to come back, it just happened. The material I was writing was just too strong.
When you are not writing music, what do you like to do for a hobby?
Rolf: Well, like I said, I like to read books, watch movies, hanging out with friends and stuff like that. There is a lot of work to do at my house, so there are some things to fix for sure haha. I’m interested in history too. I’m pretty much busy with Running Wild, but I’m very happy about that. I always have to have a part in the day or the week where I do totally different things. I like to meet with friends a lot, and they don’t all come from the heavy metal scene, so we don’t talk about music at first.
What can we expect next from the powerful Running Wild?
Rolf: Like I said before, we plan to do some live stuff within the next year, but I really can’t tell you when and where. After that we will be working on the next record. I got some ideas laying around, but I don’t have the time to work on that right now. I will also take some free time after all of the promotions to really start concentrating on some of those ideas.
Speaking of, playing with different musicians, Jens Becker was a member of Running Wild for a very long time. Do you guys still talk or keep in-touch?
Rolf. I keep in-touch with Thilo Hermann who played guitar for me, and from time to time I’ll meet Jörg Michael. I don’t have any contact with some of the guys that were in the band, because there was a reason why we split up and go different ways.
Rolf I want to thank you for your time, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.
Rolf: No problem Carlos! You too!