RUNNING WILD – Rolf “Rock ‘n Rolf” Kasparek discusses the new Blood on Blood” album and more

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Running Wild is one of the longest-running, most important and influential names in the German and European heavy / power metal scene. The band, originally formed in 1976, has gone through different times and numerous lineup changes in its career. The band’s albums “Port Royal” and “Death or Glory” released in the mid and late ’80s are classics of their genre. The band’s success continued strong in the ’90s with such albums as “The Rivalry”, “Pile of Skulls” and “Black Hand Inn”. In 2009, the band’s founder, leader, and the only original member Rolf Kasparek announced that Running Wild would quit and that his musical career would be completely over. However, only three years later, in 2012, Running Wild returned with the new album “Shadowmaker.” Now, nine years later, the band is releasing its already fourth post-return album called “Blood on Blood.” It was a perfect time to pick up the phone and ask Rolf about the new album, what’s going on with the band, and is Running Wild here to stay?


BLOOD ON BLOOD

First of all, I will say that congrats on “Blood on Blood.” It’s Running Wild album number 17.

Yes. Thank you.

Running WildI have listened to the album several times, and I must admit that” Blood on Blood” is definitely the strongest album you have done in a long, long time. So, when did you start working on this album, and how long did the whole process take this time from start to finish?

The writing process started out pretty much when I did the final mix for “Rapid Foray.” I wrote the title track “Blood on Blood” in-between that. And it was a starting point for the album, and I had two more ideas: “Say Your Prayers,” a different song, a different title back in the days, and “Wild, Wild Nights.” Those three songs are pretty much different from each other, so they set the frame for the album, and it became an album with way more different facets than what Running Wild album has typically. I think that each song needs to add something to the album. It took a long time to find the ten tracks to make it because, in this pool, we had ideas for about twenty songs. It was clear that it would take a long time to fix that. We had a whole lot of breaks in between with the festivals and the Wacken show we did in 2018. When it was clear that we couldn’t play 2020, the festivals, I continued to work on the album, so that gave me some extra time to work on that. It was a strange time indeed, but to be honest, I now had more time to write and finish the album.

You have recently said that this album is, in your opinion, the best Running Wild album to date. Because I’m a big fan of some of your previous albums, I can’t say if this is definitely the best one, but I can say that “Blood on Blood” is a really versatile album, and the production sounds just incredible.

Absolutely. That was clear from the get-go that I would reach another level with that because that was the first time in the studio that I had the possibility to do three records in the same studio. [laughter] Because it was all– it was all Pro Tools what we did from when we started out with “Shadowmaker,” but it was always a different studio. And when I did “Rapid Foray,” I had to learn the studio, how to work with that, and do the album simultaneously. So, it’s not a very great situation, but I had no other possibility. I had to do that.

Speaking about diversity, it’s just like you said. There are different types of songs on this album. There are traditional Running Wild pirate songs like “Shellback” and “Diamonds & Pearls,” an epic “Iron Times,” and happy “party-like” songs like “Wild and Free,” which is my favorite on the album. This album combines many different eras and styles you’ve done in the past, but there are also some new elements.

Sure. Like you say, if you have a look on the title track or “Diamonds & Pearls” or “The Shellback” or the “Iron Times,” which are pretty much what Running Wild stands for. But there’s also some parts or some new facets on the album with some different kind of things like “Wild and Free” is also a little bit different or “One Night, One Day,” which steps out of that usual stuff. So, it was clear from the get-go, there’s a lot of things going on there, and I figured out the direction the album was going to take. It would be a great idea to do that, to give it some extra.

What also makes this album different from a few previous ones, that “Blood on Blood” is more a band album. If I’ve understood correctly, the whole band was involved in the recording process this time, and the drums are recorded by your long-time drummer Michael Wolpers?

Michael was involved in that process when we did “Rapid Foray” and the EP “Crossing the Blades.” He was the supervisor for the drums. And this was the first time that he played himself. So that added something on– I did the kind demos and gave it to him. So, he can work out the drums. I added some ideas to the basic tracks, which had been done on the demo and something like that. And when we recorded the drums, Peter (Jordan) had a lot of ideas to put on that. So that was a kind of team effort, what we did there. And Peter was like he always is. He played the sole guitars in his own studio. He added some vocals in some of the choruses, had some good ideas for the voices and stuff like that. We were lucky enough that we finished the drum recording before the first lockdown started in Germany. We could have been in trouble then, and it would not have been as good. That was a lucky situation for us. I could work in my studio, and Peter worked his parts in his own very professional studio.

However, as I said, “Blood on Blood” sounds like a band album, and I think it’s just a positive thing.

Yeah, but Ole (Hempelmann) didn’t play the bass because of local logistic problems, so that’s why I played it myself, most of it, like always. But when it comes to live, the band is a band. And it is way more band than it was ever before with these four guys in the band. And it’s a very stable lineup, that’s the reason why.

Rolf, Peter Jordan, Ole Hempelmann, and Michael Wolpers are Running Wild in 2021.

THE REUNION AND SHADOWMAKER

As previously discussed, Running Wild quit or broke up in 2009. What was the reason that made you return to the music scene three years later with “Shadowmaker”?

The idea came about to re-record some of the classic old tracks because the classic albums from the ’80s and ’90s from modern music were not on the market anymore. And Universal, who was the rights owner back in the days, doesn’t want to re-release them. They wanted to put it in the cellar and forget about it, so. That’s where the idea came about. I was in contact with some of the record companies. I came in contact with Olly Hahn from SPV, and he said, “I will be interested in doing that,” to do that kind of re-recordings. But then he called me and said, “Would be a great idea to have one of two bonus tracks which hadn’t been released beforehand, as a bonus for the fans.” And I told him, “Okay, but I stopped doing Running Wild. You know that. But okay. I can try something. Maybe it’s got some ideas I can do some a bonus song?”

I started out with writing on that. I figured out very early that the first song that I wrote was so strong that I said, “This is not a bonus track. It’s an album track.” When I had written four or five songs, I called Olly up and said, “Okay. These songs are too strong to waste them as a bonus track. So, what about a new album?” “Yeah, for sure. No problem. Do it. Go ahead.” That gave me a buzz, and really, the fun and the passion were back to do that when I was writing all the titles. And a lot more ideas came up that I was using for the album. That was the first time I worked like that because back in the ’80s and ’90s, the only ideas for songs I had were the songs on the album. Now I was writing without any pressure. I wrote so many songs in such a short period of time. There must be some gate or something that opened where these songs were falling on me. I could slip this over to Running Wild. And so, till today, I can’t really stop writing songs. Not because I’m a workaholic because I’ve got so many ideas. And well, there were about 20 songs in this pool. Like I said before, I wrote” Blood on Blood” when I was mixing” Rapid Foray.” The funny thing is while I was mixing” Blood on Blood,” I wrote the title track for the next album. [laughter]

I find it interesting that when the reunion started with “Shadowmaker,” it was or less your and Peter Jordan’s studio project. Still, then, an album after album, Running Wild has slowly become a real band again. Do you agree with that?

I had to find my way back with “Shadowmaker” and everything because I love the passion and everything for it that was involved. It was so hard for me to write the songs. So, we had to go away from that. But it felt so good when I came back with “Shadowmaker” and then” Resilient.” There was a lot of growing back then. “Rapid Foray” became the next step in the line to find my way back to that. I mean, “Rapid Foray” was the first step to say, “Okay, this is going back to the times.” Running Wild became very successful, and it was rising as a band. We played on the very big stages, bigger we had never played before. So, it was good to see that. There was a kind of thing to testing out what the studio can do because I learned to work with that, to work what I can do. We added some new possibilities to the studio, new plugins, stuff like that, a second desk, and all these things. So that leads up to this new album, “Blood on Blood,” which is the next step in that line.

RETURN IN STAGES

Although Running Wild was officially back in 2011, and you had released new music, it took several years before we saw the band playing live again. So, what made you decide that in 2015 it was the right time to get back to playing in front of an audience?

Well, in 2015, we played in Wacken because Holger Hübner from Wacken organization came over, and he said, “What about a show, a big show, headlining show from the Running Wild in Wacken? Because you had only played there two times, 2003 and then when you broke up in 2009.” [laughter] And he made a great offer we couldn’t deny. [laughter] And so, to let you know, we had the money to do a big show, and big pyrotechnics and everything. We really could make a statement there. We did it and the band really rocked that night. It was really very good. The fans were really enthusiastic, and they went nuts there. Then in 2016, I was too busy with “Rapid Foray” and everything, but maybe in 2017, we can talk about doing some festival shows. We accepted some festivals, and they gave us a good offer. Then the Russian people came about. They wanted us to do two shows in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and they gave us a really good offer to do that. That’s why we accepted it and said, “Okay, we can play some event shows. We can play at festivals. That’s fine. I would never go on tour again.” And that’s why we accepted festivals for 2020. It didn’t happen because everybody knows that COVID, so we need to wait until we can play the shows. I don’t know if we can play 2020– 2022, sorry. I don’t know. Nobody knows. Nobody can tell. That’s were a lot of– there were a lot of more offers, but we denied them at the time to say, “Okay, we can accept to talk about that.” If we got the green light again, if we really can do the shows because I don’t want to announce them, take them away from the fans, announce them again, and take away again from the fans. That’s unfair. I don’t want to do it. Let us wait until we really know we can do them.

Once you had decided that Running Wild starts to play shows again, did you ever have plans to bring back some former band members and put “a classic lineup” back together?

No. Definitely not. Because Peter Jordan has now been my guitar player for 16 years, so, next to me, he’s the longest-running member of Running Wild. Michael and Ole have been in the band for six years, which is way longer than most of the classic era guys who were in the band. Jörg Michael was only three years in the band. So, it’s half the time. So that’s why I don’t think about that. The band is going so well together musically. We are four completely different persons, but there’s real chemistry between us. It’s an essential thing when we’re on tour when we play the shows and everything. It’s way less stressful than it was back in the days. It’s really concentrating on the music, concentrating on the show.

I saw the shows in Wacken 2015 and Sweden Rock festival in 2017. But my first Running Wild gig was in 1990 when you played in Giants of Rock -festival in Hämeenlinna, Finland. Do you have any memories of that?

Absolutely. That was a long time ago, yeah, but I still remember that well. It was a hard day because we had too many drinks the last night before. [laughter] And Jens (Becker) was going on with it again right after the show. [laughter] He was just running around backstage and camping area, and I can remember many people saying, “Who’s that?” “It’s the bass player for Running Wild.” “Who?” [laughter]

I also remember that it was a” hotter than hell” day then!

Oh, yeah. That was too. And going on with a hangover and then the sun goes on your head, it’s not that good.

It was that hot that my shoes were melting on the asphalt. But I remember that you guys, you still were wearing your heavy stage costumes through the show. No mercy! [laughs]

Yeah, absolutely. There was no way we would have given up! [laughs]. It was really exhausting afterward.

Rolf live at Wacken Open Air -festival 2015

THE OLD TIMES AND EVOLUTION

Is there anything you miss from the old days when Running Wild was constantly on tour, making new records all the time, year after another?

Not really, because now we can put on the big show. Because we get the fee to pay for that because Running Wild is paid so well today. And like I said before, we play the same slots like Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, KISS. So, we go through the revolving door. It’s like,” Didn’t they play in the festival last year. We’ll play there the following year.” And so, this is a good thing for us because you can really put a lot of effort into a show. And, by the way, the stage 2018 in Wacken was the biggest stage they ever had. We had a huge set there, and we talked about three weeks about if it’s possible to handle that. I don’t know how many types of– we had about 52 guitar cabinets on stage on three rounds and, I don’t know how many hundreds of additional lamps we had for the lighting and all those kinds of things. And a few dozen motors that were hanging in the rig. And we really had to handle that, and it was really had a big challenge for the guys, but they did a good job.

You originally formed the band in 1976 and many things have changed in the music scene since then. How do you see the evolution of Running Wild and overall the German metal scene through the past decades?

Now it’s difficult because of COVID and because all the smaller bands couldn’t bring out the album because they have to promote the album with a tour, and they can’t go on tour. But when they bring out the album, the tour is wasted because they can’t go on tour in two years or something like that. It’s a big problem for smaller bands. So, this is really heavy. So, it doesn’t matter when Running Wild brings out the album, nowadays, if we go on tour or not. It doesn’t matter because we have the status, we have the legend and everything, so the people just buy it. And back in the days when we started out, everything was done for the first time because there was no real rock scene, there were no club circles. There were no record companies. The press didn’t support the German bands when they played rock and roll. They didn’t do that. And we did everything for the first time. So, everything has to be done. You have to think about how to do it. Do you know what I mean? So that was great.

And then in the middle ’80s until the late ’80s, that was always club scenes, and all those fanzines supported the bands. The press supported the bands, and the record companies were there. So, all the logistic was just coming up. So that was a great thing to see that. And the band could grow with that. And we did the big step in 1986, supporting Mötley Crüe in Germany and Switzerland. It was the next step for us. It brought a lot of new fans for us. That was constantly a growing process for us. The next big step was when we did” Port Royal.” And then afterward when” Death or Glory” came out. It was the next big step, and the sales were exploding, something like that, so.

And when the early ’90s came, for most of the band’s grunge was a real problem for the heavy metal bands. The funny thing is, it was never a problem for Running Wild because we were always growing throughout all those years. So, I just looked around and said, “What’s wrong with the bands?” Because it did not affect us, not the slightest effect. That was great for us. There was a constant growing process, and the legend was growing. Running Wild started professionally in ’83, ’84, it’s such a long time, and there are so many records, 17 records we did now. There’s a lot of younger fans who have been interested in the last ten years, especially the last five years. I remember back from 2017, I was looking at the audience from the stage, and pretty much the first ten rows, nobody was over 30. And they all hadn’t been born when the albums came out in the ’90s. So that was interesting to see that. There’s a lot of young kids today. If a guy’s today 22 or something like that, “Shadowmaker” was his childhood. He had grown up with the new, the reunion of the band.

Running Wild has often been considered one of the big German four of power metal with Helloween, Rage, and Grave Digger. What do you think about that comparison, and is that still current in your opinion?

No, not really. I always see Running Wild as a heavy metal band with many hard rock influences because I’m coming from that. When I was growing up and started playing guitar and everything, everybody was into hard rock because there was no metal in the ’70s. And so, it became my DNA musically. And I have learned to play rhythm guitar with AC/DC because they had the groove. Malcolm Young had the groove. And he knew exactly how to play the guitar. So that’s why I picked them as a teacher in a way, so. And that was really– from all the time this is my DNA. That kind of thing. So that’s why Running Wild always has these hard rock influences. If you look at the song” Raise Your Fist,” it’s way more a hard rock song than a heavy metal song.

OTHER THINGS IN LIFE

One important thing is that you turned 60 years old, or young. Congrats on that.

Yes. Yeah, thanks.

What does aging mean to you, or is age just a number?

It’s just a number, and it’s all about how you feel and what your body does and everything. When I became 50, doesn’t matter. When I became 60, I don’t know? It depends on how you live. Okay, I got very good genes. I know that. [laughter] I’m not looking that old. I know that. It’s always about how you feel and how you see your life and how you react to it, but sure you have to shorten some things. When you’re going on stage, you can’t run around like when I was 30 for sure not. It’s not possible. But it’s not necessary to do that because Running Wild is such a legend, you know what I mean? This is enough for the fans when we are moving forward and doing good shows and playing well. Having a big stage set, having everything look– KISS has the same problem. Gene is getting 72 or 73. I’m sure that he doesn’t want to be on stage much longer. He wanted to close it when he was 72, and now he still needs to play when he’s 74. It’s not easy. Many other guys are sitting in a wheelchair at that age. [laughter]

You are now 60 years old; this is a hypothetical question, but if Running Wild was formed today, would you still pick “Rock’ n’ Rolf” to your artist name?

You know how I picked it? This is a very funny story. We were still amateurs, and there was this guy Michael Hoffmann in the band. They were the first days when we were slipping over to the name Running Wild. And we were rehearsing in the basement of the house of his parents. And he had a younger brother who was eight years old or something like that. Uwe (Bendig) and Michael were sitting in the living room and talking about rock and roll, and this little guy was playing with his Star Wars toys or something like that. Then I was ringing at the door, he came and opened up the door, and said, “Rock ‘n Rolf is here.” [laughter] So the name, ah, Rock’ n’ Rolf, so the name is born. So, I didn’t make it myself. Like all the things that happened to Running Wild came on, not intentionally. They just happened like with the pirate image, all these kinds of things. It just happened.

By the way, what’s going on with the Running Wild biography book? It’s been “in progress for” over ten years already.

I have been asked about that today a few times. I never wrote a book. I know that Jens Pohl, who runs the official Running Wild site, wanted to… he had the idea to write a book about Running Wild. I was not involved in the project so far, so I don’t know how far he is with that idea and what he’s doing there. I really can’t tell you because I’m not involved in that. And I don’t have any plans to write a book, to be honest.

What is Rolf Kasparek doing when he’s not in the studio or on tour with Running Wild?

All the other things I don’t have time to do when I’m doing Running Wild. I’ve got a big house, so there’s a lot of things to do for sure. So that’s why I had that hernia! [laughs]. And that’s exactly the reason why I got it. So, I have a lot of things to do. I have a dog, and I walk with the dog and do kind of things. I am going out with friends and meetings with friends and I’m doing all these kinds of normal things. I’m living not that adventurous life or something like that, pretty much. When I was busy with the album, especially last year, we concentrated on the band on the production for sure.

Are you still doing recording and production work for other bands as well?

I started out by trying that, but I was never paid. [laughter] And really, I don’t have the time to do that, to be honest. I’m too busy with my own stuff. And I need the time to do my own stuff the right way.

I hope that we are going to see Running Wild on tour next summer. If not in anywhere else, but maybe in Wacken?

Yeah, it could be possible. And I don’t know because maybe there are three more, and there’s a lot of possibilities to do for the next years. I think there’s a lot of festivals looking for bands when they can do their festivals again.

Right. Okay, I think our time’s up. Thank you very much, Rolf, and I hope to see you soon.

Absolutely, yes.

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