Running Wild - Rock 'N' Rolf

Running Wild - Rock 'N' Rolf

I don’t know about you but I wouldn't ask from a band to produce an album like it did, two or even three decades ago. What I do expect is seeing the band putting its heart on the music-making without having an eye on the money-making... Captain Rock ‘n’ Rolf is beyond that and his resilient has proven that he still writes the music he has in his soul, and that’s why “Rapid Foray” came out so great, waking memories but not in a nostalgia way. METAL KAOZ had once more the chance to chat with him, so onboard we get and the let the wind on our sails guide the discussion below... Ship ahoy!

Running Wild - Rock 'N' Rolf

Hi Rolf, this is Dimitris from METAL KAOZ - how are you, man?
I’m fine, Dimitris.

It’s great talking to you again after all this time; it has been 3 years since the last RUNNING WILD album, so it’s amazing. First of all, you had a broken shoulder, so have you completely recovered?
Yeah, it all happened a few years ago. In January 2014, when I broke the shoulder joint, I mean the arm was off (laughs). It was not a big accident but I slipped so heavy, so I ended up knocking the arm off the joint and they had to fix it with two screws but today it’s ok. I had another operation to put it out again to take off those screws, so it’s healed. But the problem was that I couldn’t work for one year, not very properly. During the first half, I did absolutely nothing at all. But the second half was ok. I really couldn’t work in a very heavy way that means more than half an hour and it really hurt. It was a right shoulder, so I could do some exercising on the guitar with the left hand, so I was not really knocked out on playing guitar, if you know what I mean.

So, now you have totally healed? You don’t have any discomfort when you play the guitar, right?
No, no. Last year we played the ‘Wacken’ show and it was no problem at all. The funny thing is when we’re headed to go to the hospital, we went to this hospital where there was the best doctor for shoulder in the entire Germany, so I was very lucky in an unlucky situation, you know (laughs).

Awesome! And this is why “Rapid Foray” came out so great, right?
Yeah, maybe. I don’t know, because I had so much time to collect all the ideas, I had about 35 songs.

Yeah, I read in the press release you had about three dozen song concepts! So, first of all, how did you manage to pick the ones that you used in the album?
Well, I was in a situation when I could really take all the time I needed, you know. At the first place, the ten songs that made it to the album and the eleven tracks which were when the instrumental came too fast so to speak; I wrote this in one night. The way I picked up the songs was way different from each other and every song could add something to the record that the other didn’t, so it was really great to have the time to work on these bits and pieces because I figured out very early what songs needed a different kind of re-arrangements and I had to work on the details than the songs in the two albums before that. I really took all the time that the record company gave me to do that, and even the production had much more time to work on the songs and give them a unique sound which adds something to the song because I didn’t want to have a record which sounds the same from the first until the last track. I really wanted to get the right dressing for each song. And I really had the time to do that because for the last album, “Resilient”, we had about 4-5 days to do the whole mix for the album and this time I had 4-5 days per song.

Oh my, that’s a huge difference, right?
Yes, this is very different. I mean whenever I was stuck working on a song I was like “that’s ok, I will work on another and get back to this later”. So, it was a really rich situation and also because I had a new studio everything was worked in a better way. I had way way better possibilities and this helped a lot.

o, you’re saying you had more time and the songs became more complex but for me, as an old RUNNING WILD fan, I see some stuff in this album that were in the previous albums, although I don’t like to compare the new with the old – I hate doing that. But it’s true that there is some old smell in the album so did this just happen or it was intentionally?
It just happened because if I would had tried intentionally to write a song that sounds like the old days, there would be no good song coming out of that. Because the heart nor the feeling would not be there. And I really felt really early that some of the songs could be easily on older albums, you know. Even the song “Into The West” which was the first demo I did because I had to pick one song to play it live in ‘Wacken’ and I figured out that this song could be easily on “Blazon Stone”. A lot of other ideas could figure myself to be there so that’s why I needed more time to write on some bits and pieces because I thought more in the classic way and belong to more what RUNNING was all about 20 years ago, but I never tried to recreate that – I don’t think that really works because this kind of songs have some feelings from back then and also this is RUNNING WILD in 2016.

Of course. As we grow old, the music grows old too, right?
Yeah, exactly.

Maybe it’s just in my mind, but I even like some lyrics like “death or glory” or stuff like that that yeah, it made me happy.
Yeah, that’s why when I was working on the songs, I tried to also write the lyrics to fit to the songs, and if you have a look on a song like “Black Bart”, it’s a classic RUNNING WILD song. I mean, this song could have been in “Pile Of Skulls”. So, I tried to have the lyrics in that way because that was a great album, even if I’m a way better writer than what I was 20 years ago. I’ve written so many songs, so I’m pretty much better in rhymes and putting some content into the lyrics.

So, what was the contribution of the rest of the RUNNING WILD lineup in the making of the album?
In the first place, it was me in my studio doing all the guitars, the bass and stuff like that, and PJ [Peter Jordan] did the solo guitars and when it comes to the drums we also went into another studio and PJ done the tone-edging thing, but the whole band, the live band was involved in the production. Michael [Wolpers] played some stuff but he didn’t do all the songs of the album, there were two other guys involved in that and Ole [Hempelmann] didn’t play the bass but all of us did the choirs for the choruses for the songs, so everybody in the band was involved in one way on the record. So, it was a kind of team work with some other people also involved in that.

And now that you mentioned the recording process, you know that there are these online comments with people saying that RUNNING WILD are using a drum machine, so what is this story? I mean, how did this come up in the first place?
I don’t really know. When Angelo [Sasso] did the drums for me, you know, there were some people that they didn’t like the way they came out. And that’s ok if you don’t like them, but it is an entire different story saying that this is a drum machine; I have never used on in my entire life (laughs). He was a good friend of mine, so when people make jokes about this, I get really angry. Angelo was one of my best friends and he died in 2007 after suffering a very serious heart attack while on holidays in Spain, so it was really hard for the family to go there because all his things were there so they had to make all the arrangements. And for me also, because I’ve lost a friend. So if you don’t like what he did, it’s ok, but I don’t think is the right way to make fun of that.

I’m sorry for this, man - I didn’t know it.
It’s 10 years ago, so it’s ok for me today but it was very heavy back then when it happened. And for the family too, because he had checked out his heart and everything before he was going to holiday and immediately after that, he got a serious heart attack. So, it occurred to me that this can happen every day, you know, to everyone and changed my way of thinking.

Ok, let’s talk about music; so what’s going on with “Last Of The Mohicans”? I know just by reading the song titles and following the band that you like the Indians’ history, right? So, what exactly did inspire you to write this song?
I had the desire to write this kind of song for a long period. The first time this idea came was when we’re doing the “Victory” album. But it turned out from a musical idea I first had ended up to this song called “Tsar”. And then it came back when I was doing “Shadowmaker” and then again when I was writing the song “Dracula” and it came out great, so I used that instead. It came back on “Resilient”; when I was writing “Last Of The Mohicans” again and I came up with the idea for “Bloody Island”, and (again) it came great, so I used that. So, this time it was about time to write the song. The basic story of “Last Of The Mohicans” follows me personally my whole life. In Germany, we had this kind of tradition back in the late ‘60s / early ‘70s where four Sundays before Christmas we were watching adventure movies something like “Tom Sawyer”, “Huckleberry Finn” and stuff like that, and on the other hand, there were movies about Hawk-eye, since James Fenimore Cooper has wrote lots stories about Hawk-eye, so four movies, one of them was “Last Of The Mohicans”. I was about 9 years or something when I saw it for the first time and I was really impressed with the story, even if it was a very sad story. Since a lot of movies have been done with this topic, of course, the movie with Daniel Day Lewis playing Hawk-eye and it was really great, so it’s a very complex story and sad too. This was the same with “Treasure Island” because there was a movie “Treasure  Island” that we watched during these four-trek movie-showing back in the ‘60s. So I came back to that and thought that it would be a great song such a great epic story which you can tell not only via the words and the lyrics, but also musically. And I really figured out a lot of ideas when I started writing on this song this time, for this album - I figured out that this is the time to do this song.

And it came out great. Honestly, I was expecting to hear just a small phrase from the movie soundtrack (laughs).
(laughs) We just built a lot of things together. When I was writing the song, I figured out very early that the song is too complex to play it ever live. So that’s why I was free to do things in the song; things that I’d never do because you always have in mind you have to play it live. So, there are sometimes where 4-5 guitars are playing at the same time and you don’t notice of that but if you’d leave it off there is something missing from the song. So, I am sorry but we’ll never play it live.

Oh, you killed my next question; I was expecting you to say “oh yeah, we’ll play that” (laughs). That’s a killer song, anyway.
(laughs) Yeah, we’d need something like four guitarists to do this. I figured it out very early that it was too complex at that time and I said “now you can do everything you want for the song because you don’t have to have in mind that you’re gonna play it live - forget about that”.

Did you use actual bagpipes for “By The Blood Of Your Heart”?
No, this is really a plug-in but it has been done by a friend of PJ because we can do that (laughs). This plug-in was too complicated for us and he was really keen that he could do that.

Awesome! You have scheduled to release a split 7” with SODOM for RockHard Germany; wouldn’t be extremely cool to go on the road with SODOM?
No, I don’t think it’d really work because the two bands are so different.

Yeah, but we like both bands, so for me, it would be a win-win situation!
There are a lot of guys saying this but I don’t do touring anymore. First of all, we just play festivals and maybe some events or something like that. SODOM did their last touring while they were doing the record and this was a problem for the record company because of the time and they did a lot of shows and festivals during the summer. I was really concentrated on the album, so...

[interrupting] So now you killed another question; because I was about to ask you what about playing live?
(laughs) Yeah! Like I said, I just had a discussion with an agency today, we plan to do some festivals shows next year and he is getting through the offers and sees what he can manage for RUNNING WILD. He was sending them over to me by fax and now we’ll go through it and discuss what we can do and what not, and maybe there will be some about two events or something like that in the late 2017, around Christmas. But it’s not really fixed yet; we just talk about it and since there is a lot of time ahead of tour, we need to talk about that and decide what to do.

And of course you’re talking only about Europe, right?
Yeah. The problem is today because of personal reasons I can’t get away from home for a long time because of my private life. And this is a bit of a problem but I can’t change it now, so we just have to keep an eye on doing the shows in Europe and see what we can do there.

Ok, because for me it’s been a long time since the last time I seen RUNNING WILD live.
I can imagine.

Oh my goodness, it was on the ‘Blazon Stone’ tour back in Greece!
Oh, that’s really a long time ago (laughs)! I was a young man then (laughs)!

I was a young man back then, Rolf (laughs)! But I do understand; life comes first. And as I want to wrap this up, do you have GIANT-X and TOXIC TASTE as active projects or you’re done with those?
I just do it but not for public, you know, because I’ve written so many songs I just have them on tape but I can’t record stuff on these because I’m so busy with RUNNING WILD. I did the ‘Wacken’ show and the new album and now I’m on the promotion phase and we’ll start talking about the festivals and then go back to the rehearsal room to bring out a proper setlist for the summer festivals, so there is absolutely no time to do anything else than RUNNING WILD now. From time to time you do have somebody which is the normal life, but sometimes it’s a little bit short. During the last month, when I was doing the production about seven days a week, 10 hours a day, so you can imagine.

Yeah. But you have some good Hard Rock tunes there, so this is why I’m asking.
Absolutely, and there are some more songs for the project. Maybe in the future, I don’t know, but today I’m pretty much concentrated on RUNNING WILD.

Sure, and this is why my Adrian tattoo is happy and smiles (laughs)!
Yeah, absolutely - this is what we want to have, you know, because Rock ‘n' Roll should make you smile. This is why I wrote By The Blood In Your Heart; it makes you smile and it doesn’t matter how drunk you are (laughs).

(laughs) One last question; why you say that the sandglass on the album’s cover artwork is half empty and not half full?
Because this pirate who you can imagine put his things there – his tricorn, his saber and his pistol – he was just going away. When he was going away to do some raids, he just saw the sandglass and said “I will turn this upside down to see how fast I’m today”. So, then afterwards he said “it’s not half done - I’m better than I was the last time”. So it’s more a twinkling in the eye, it’s not too serious, if you know what I mean.

So, you’re not saying that RUNNING WILD has half…
[interrupting] No, this has nothing to do with the band. Some guys asked if I named the album “Rapid Foray” because I was thinking it would sell really fast (laughs). Maybe it will, but I really do not know. I did not do this for this reason. It was pretty much about the idea of the cavalry. People shouldn’t take things too seriously, but smile.

It seems that nowadays, people are taking things too seriously
Yeah, I do not know. But as you grow older, you’re getting more relaxed. Younger people are getting easier mad about things and today, I don’t need that, you know.

And on that note, I would like to thank you very much Rock ‘n’ Rolf, for your time and for this awesome album!
Yeah, thanks!

And I hope I will get a chance to come to Germany or somewhere in Europe and see live one more time RUNNING WILD.
Yeah, I never say never, you know. This time is about these festivals, so we’ll see what the future will bring.