The tour of Germany's Running Wild was almost over when I had the chance to see the band in Oberhausen. And not just to see them, I got the chance to do an interview with mastermind Rock'n'Rolf! An honor to talk to another veteran of the German metal scene and a lot to talk about!
Usually you start talking about the latest release and that we will do, but you also have a complete new line-up. A kind of renewal...
Right, but it wasn't a real renewal, coz Efti just played at the last tours and never was a permanent member.
On the first tour he still was in Rage, then he was in Sub7even which is his own band. He always was just a guest drummer. Actually Matthias should have played on the last tour, but he couldn't do it and so Efti helped out one more time. So, it was planned from quite awhile that he would be the next Running Wild drummer. Thilo told me last summer when I was working on the material of the new, the recent album that he will leave the band. Thilo could no longer handle the burden of being in Running Wild and his family, he has kids, built a house and has a day job. Meanwhile he finished his studies and started working and so he no longer could handle both.
He had to put priority on something...
We expected this. We had coordination problems during the festivals. Actually, more the rehearsals were a problem to coordinate... Bodo just finished his studies and so this would be the next problem... So, it just happened. Now it's a complete new band.
For the fans who can't take a look behind the scenery it looks like you are the master of Running Wild... That you are a kind of band dictator...
No, that's definitely not the truth!
On the other hand the last line-up was lasting for years. Running Wild didn't had new members every year....
The last line-up lasted 10 years! Bodo left almost a year ago and that Thilo would leave I already expected, coz we know that he was in a dilemma. Thilo wanted to be 100% in Running Wild or not and he didn't want to be in our way.
It's in your interest that the members are 100% into the band!
Sure, in Tuttlingen Thilo visited us. He was backstage and watched the show with his son. There is no bad blood between us, we still phone once in awhile.
Beside the coordination problem the huge distance was a problem, I guess....
That's right. It ain't easy and took time and money if someone has to come from Lake Constance just to do some soli or something like that. That was a handicap, then he moved twice and his family needed time. So he didn't had that much time any longer.
Now you have a new line-up, but just Bernd is known for his work with Angel Dust. The rest are nobodies for most of the fans.
That's right, even if the other and also Peter did a lot of different stuff. But both are not part of the metal scene.
That's why they are nobodies to the fans of Running Wild....
That's right! And this tour is a kinda of introduction of our new members to the fans. *laughs* That's it! The chemistry in the band is great. Actually I was looking for the right characters as well as for the musical abilities. The harmony is great and so it was the right thing to do.
I think it makes sense to choose new members not just for their musical abilities, coz on tour you are together 24/7 and even in the studio you work together very closely.
There have to be a certain chemistry in the band, especially on stage have to count on each other. It was pretty interesting, coz when we met the first time for the rehearsals of this tour, it was like we know each other for years and played together for years! Not like 4 persons in one room who had to work out something. From the very first second there was this chemistry and I think that's what makes this special!
I think that's more important for someone like you who is in this business for years then for a newcomer. It's about different priorities...
That's right! And that's what I did! *laughs* I made that mistake before, but that was long ago...
I remember that! *Laughs too*
That's part of a learning process, of getting more mature. At that time I thought different about it, had different priorities, but that was long ago and I got more mature.
On the recent album The Brotherhood you try to get away from the image, the pirate image which you still battle against.
Right, but that's ridiculous, coz when there is an album with 12 tracks and there is just one track about this subject then it's badly investigated! I wrote about 150 songs and when I count all the songs which I wrote about this genre, then I have probably 10 tracks about this pirate genre!
Now they can fix it on the Pirate Song.
Yes, it's right that this is a genre one and that it's all about the image, no deeper meaning. Actually I had the idea for this one while I was working on a different one. Pirate Song was written within 10 minutes. Quickly done. On this album there are quite a few songs on this album which were written pretty fast.
So, this time the songs just kinda flow? Not like in the past where some need a long time to grow?
Right, this time it was pretty simple. A lot ideas just came up while I worked on other tracks. But there are also songs which took awhile to create, for example Siberian Winter and The Ghost. Others just came out of me like e.g. Detonator. Therefor I had the basic riff for about 2 or 3 albums, but it never fit into them. And so I kept them and waited until it fit into the atmosphere of the album.
If you read interviews and reviews these days it seems that a few got that you no longer related to the pirate image.
As far as I remember the last covers which were related to this image were Pile Of Skull and Black Hand Inn. That was late 1994 and that's quite a few years, right? So, I think that's far-fetched. Even on Death Or Glory have just been two tracks...
Right, but it was for marketing easy to use and to sell....
Sure, in the beginning it was a element we used and the fans liked it. It was something they could fix on and which was a symbol which presented 'their' band. It's funny that the people who criticized us in the beginning for using this symbols were the ones who later tried to sell this to the people! *Quiet amused about this* I never really used this image, I just used the symbols, the stylistic element for some songs.
It is a symbol which is pregnant and has nothing to do with the often used dragons and dragon slayers.
Right! That's one of the reasons for the cover we chose. Okay, the flag has a slightly touch of the pirate image, but on the other hand it's a totally different style compared to the usual cover artwork. The cover for The Brotherhood is different.
There is a development to see, if you take a look at the different covers you had in all that years. It's 17 years now, right?!?
Right... I think the first album was released in '84...
I wasn't sure, if it was in '83 or '84. Anyway, it's quite awhile in this business.
Another thing which is new, after several years there was an interview of you in the Metal Hammer magazine. How came?
Right... That's the story... If you decided to work no longer with a business partner, coz you think it makes no sense anymore... First people say that you don't work with them anymore, then someone says that there are certain problems between the parties. Next step is that someone says that you boycott them! But I never ever said that I boycott them, I just said that I think that it makes no sense to work with them any longer. There were things which I was upset about and that makes no longer sense, coz their customers are not the target group we strive for. In that case it makes no sense to me to spend about 18,000.- DM (app. 9,200.- Euro) for an ad. I thought that it was a waste of money, if the gross of the fans of our music don't read / buy the magazine. That was why I made this decision and that once they printed and interview which I should have done, but which I never did! And so I decided to stop working with them and that I don't need to deal with this nonsense.
That's not very honest and a magazine like Metal Hammer should be aware that on the long run it doesn't work that way. There are enough magazines which stick to the truth and which will give you a chance to tell the truth. To state "Hey, I never said that!" (ed. - We luckily have this interview recorded and do have the tape ! ;-)). In conclusion, Metal Hammer damaged their reputation with things like that.
That's right and they changed their mind which was shown in a statement of Robert Müller. For me it changed when I saw Grave Digger on the magazine cover, coz that showed that this statement was not just lip-service. That showed the change and so there was again a basis to start a new cooperation. It was a pretty easy then, we started a new era and worked together again. We left the past behind and did a re-start.
In the past you had good times with Metal Hammer....
For example with the Metal Hammer Festival in 1985 where they presented Running Wild very well....
...Absolutely! Actually I was very sorry that it turned out that way. But the number of sold copies dictated the way. We ignored them, not boycott them! Boycott would be an active work against them. To do cheap talk about them or if we would announced that to the public. But I haven't done that, I just ignored them! Other magazines and media people wanted to make this big. Not me! But that's another story...
It's there interest to do a story about.
The German tour is almost over, just 3 more shows. How were the reactions so far? On tour with a new band, the fans do have certain expectations...
It's always the same. The curtain fall down, the first song started and the fans went crazy. They gave the new ones a warm welcome and it was great, even if this is a subjective point of view when you watch it from the stage. We feel very good and the fans showed us that they like it. And everybody we talked with said that this is the best Running Wild line-up ever. That's a compliment, I guess. Actually it feels good to me, but I can just talk for myself and about the way I see it from stage and so I have to rely on the people's opinion.
Usually you put priority on playing new stuff, but in this case even more than usual, right?
No, not really. We play five new songs and then there will be some surprises! There are quite a few songs we never played live before and some which we haven't played for years.
That sounds like you have to recorded it...
That will happen in Osnabrück! There we will record a live DVD and a live audio CD as well.
So that the ones who haven't a DVD play have a chance to listen to it!
*laughs* Exactly! We will do that the big way, coz it make no sense to do a low-budget-thing than.
Which means an impressive stage show, even if you always have a great show with visual effects and pyros, but then it will be bigger as usual... Right?
Right, there will be something special. We will record with 5 cameras, one with a crane, etc.
A huge production!?!
If we do something, we make it big!
And a DVD is something you don't do every tour...
Right, the last time we recorded a live show was in 1987! That was 15 years ago, so the time is right... *laughs* We aren't one of the bands which record a live album every time we hit the road.
You aren't Manowar...
Ehm... No, not really!
Guess, nobody would take it...
So there are some surprising moments where the audience will think "Oh, that's next!" So there might be some quite moments.
Ehm, not really quite, more enthusiastic as soon as the fans recognized the song!
Right now you are touring in Germany. What about the rest of Europe? Of the world? In Germany it seems that you concentrate on the market in your home country...
Right, but that changed years ago. There was a time where it didn't worked out to play outside Germany and so we didn't. But at that time most bands had that problem.
Actually, touring is quite expensive.
That changed meanwhile. After the release of our last album we played several festivals, not just in Germany and it was pretty successful! In Italy we played in front of 20,000 fans and in Sweden where we were co-headliner 40,000 fans watched us! See, a lot happened and for this summer two festivals are already confirmed. We will play at June 6th 2002 at the Gods Of Metal in Milano / Italy with Manowar and on July 1st in Athens / Greece.
Oh, Greece! That will be killer!
I think so, but there might be more. These are already confirmed. There are talks about playing in Spain... Perhaps we play a festival in Hungary and perhaps some shows in South America, but these aren't confirmed yet! South America is depending on the political situation there... We will be careful about that, but we will keep the fans updated.
But they can expect to see you live?
We definitely will play there, but we are still in the negotiations, so no details yet!
I guess that fans can find information about on your homepage!?!
Definitely, as soon as the contracts are signed we will announce it on our site!
Usually a support act should heat up the audience for the headliner and to give value for money. This time you have an opening act who hasn't released their debut yet! That's unusual, but I guess you had some expectations, listened to the album and thought that it'll work out.
I surely listened to the CD first. I got it from my former management Drakkar and they asked me, if I would like Rebellion as support. They told me to listen to and if I would like to have them...
But it wasn't just based on business...
No, if it wouldn't have fit musically, I would have told Boggie and denied to take them on tour with us.
You are not the kind of guy who say: "Okay, they pay to play. So, we take them on tour with us, but..."
No... No, even for Rebellion it was a risk, coz the debut album was release while we are on tour. The first shows they play before release and it was like dive into the unknown.
That's why it's not just a risk for the opener, it's also risky for the headliner! An opening act should heat up the audience, so you have to be convinced that they are the right band to open for you...
Sure, it was a decision based on a conflict. We looked for the right opener for awhile and listened to many CDs, but there wasn't any other band which convinced me!
*Noises, some kid came in and wanted something signed *
Was that the next fan generation?
*laughs* That's the son of our sound engineer.
The rising generation has to be supported! *laughter*
*more laughter* Right, he has to know who he can work with in future.
So that you can play in 20 years, if you still want to....
You play live for years now and this time there will be some surprises, but there are songs which the people expect. Songs, you have to play, right?
Sure, there are certain songs.
Don't you want to play different songs once in awhile? Getting tired of the same old tunes?
Yes, that's why we started a kind of rotation a few years ago. Songs like Under Jolly Roger or Prisoner Of Our Time are tracks we have to play and we want to play them, coz they representing the band. But there are also songs like Conquistadores which we played on the last tour, but this time we replaced that one. Beside that we have to exchange some songs, otherwise it would be impossible to put up a set list.
You could play 5 hrs. and even longer...
Sure but that's impossible physically and so it's the better way to do a song rotation. Makes it even more interesting for the fans to hear other tunes. Especially for this tour it took me 3 days t work out the set list. I have overworked it again and again. But everybody who saw the set was really into it and was surprised about one or the other track, coz there are tunes which none expect!
You have to keep it interesting for the fans, otherwise there would be no reason to come to see you next time.
That's right. Another aspect....
If you know had to name a song which represents the album best, which one would you name?
With this album it's hard to say, coz it has a large variety of songs. Actually I can't! Sure, the title track The Brotherhood is one of the best tracks on the album. Another one everybody would agree on might be Welcome To Hell which we start the set with.
So, album opener as show opener?
Guess that's it for today. Thank you very much and I hope there will be a chance to talk next time.
Too soon the time we had was over and Rolf had to go on. I hope that there will be another possibility to talk with Rolf in future. Thanks for your honesty and it was nice to talk to you personally.