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Running Wild

Running Wild
Writing About One Topic Is Too Limiting


Архив интервью | Русская версия

The return of Germany’s most beloved heavy metal pirates, announced late last year, came as quite a surprise for the fans who so gloriously buried the band after their final show at Wacken Open Air and the subsequent CD/DVD “The Final Jolly Roger”. Indeed, this may look like a wise marketing strategy – first wait until the “farewell” live offering is released and sold in substantial numbers, and then, riding on the wave of nostalgia, strike back with a new studio effort. However, Running Wild frontman and mastermind Rolf Kasparek offers a different explanation – the main point for him is that writing for the band has become natural again. The resulting album, “Shadowmaker”, is a good proof of that – even though it possesses a lot of the trademark Running Wild qualities, it is also another step towards a more hard rock sound which he already started to embrace with the band’s previous effort, 2005’s “Rogues En Vogue”, and the RW alter ego, Toxic Taste. Having Mr. Kasparek himself explain the events to us was a must in such circumstances. After all, our previous interview happened seven years ago, and I was never quite happy with it…

I remember one of your last interviews before you stopped doing Running Wild, around 2009, and there you said that you didn’t feel the same passion for that kind of music anymore. What happened that made you interested in doing Running Wild again?

Everything started when some record companies came over to me and said, “We would like you to re-record the old stuff from the first nine records, because they are no longer on the market”. Universal Records, which are the owners of the rights, don’t wanna bring them out again, and some record companies said it would be a great idea to re-record that stuff. We tried to analyze what we wanna do, and they said, “If we do 20 songs as a package, and then another 20 songs, so that one comes out the next year and the other one the year after that, we need some bonus material for that”. I said, “OK, I wanna see what I have”, and I started writing bonus songs. But I figured out that the four songs I wrote were coming out fast and natural, and they were so good that I really couldn’t waste them as bonus tracks. I just talked to record companies again and I said, “It would make more sense to do a whole record, because four songs are half a record, and the material is way too strong to waste it like that.”

So we came in contact with SPV in Hannover and they wanted to do my new record. And I really figured out when I was writing those songs that this kind of freshness was back. When I did the last record for Running Wild, it took me so long and it was so hard for me to get the songs out of me, to write the songs in a right way together. When I was writing for this album, everything came naturally. The track which took me most of the time was “Dracula”. I initially thought that I had to take three or four days to come up with the arrangement of the song, but when I got down to writing the song, I was finished in two hours. All the other songs that you can hear on the record took me half an hour to write. The first song, “Piece Of The Action”, was done in 10 minutes. The fun and the freshness were back.

When I did that project with PJ and Matthias Liebetruth which was called Toxic Taste, where I wrote totally different songs as compared to Running Wild, they were more hard rock and punky and rock’n’rollish, everything came out naturally, too, because I had never written songs like that before. I wrote 18 songs like that, and we put 15 on the record. When I was writing for Running Wild, it felt the same way as when I was writing for Toxic Taste, even if it was for Running Wild. That was the main point for me – it felt natural again.

Is anybody else playing on the record apart from yourself? I didn’t find any information on this in the press release…

PJ did some solos, and we had some recording sessions for drums and bass, but they were played by session musicians who were just there for the band in the studio situation. They are totally different people than those I would take to do a live set. That’s why we didn’t write on the record who they were and who did what.

You mentioned the song “Dracula”, and it’s a very unusual topic for Running Wild. At the same time, so many other bands have used it. Why did you decide to write a song about the world’s most famous vampire?

I saw some documentary on the TV. (laughs) Originally there was another song planned, also an epic one, but I hadn’t written it by that point. When I was playing in my head with the idea of doing a song about Dracula, the first riff came out. When I was starting to write the song, I figured out that I needed four days for that, but one riff came out of my mind after the other, and when I did the demo – when I was putting it down on tape just to fix that this is the song – I played some mistakes, out of which the next part developed. (laughs) Everything came naturally, and I felt, “OK, here’s the end of the song, let’s come back to the intro to let the people feel this kind of loneliness that Dracula has in his heart”. I didn’t want to portray a typical vampire story in the lyrics, I wanted to go further and deeper, I wanted to have an eye on the real story in Bram Stoker’s book, because Dracula is not only a blood-sucking vampire, he’s also a very tragic person, because he’s really trapped in his curse, he can’t get out of it, and he’s suffering because of that. That’s the part I wanted to tell in the song – he’s also a tragic figure.

At the same time, there are again a couple of pirate-themed songs on the record. What made you come back to this topic once again?

Most parts of the song “Sailing Fire” were originally recorded as a demo three years ago, I just had the idea to put it on tape, and it felt like a pirate song because the melody and everything felt to me like the open sea, and that’s what I wanted to convey in the lyrics. It’s not a typical pirate song, it has more to do with the passion to the sea and what people feel when they’re going over the sea, they feel kind of proud about it. For the other song, “Riding On The Tide”, first I had the riff, and it sure had something to do with pirates, and the idea of riding on the tide came to my mind. Everything is told with that line.

Speaking about pirates, have you heard the Scottish band Alestorm, and if yes, what do you think of them?

I heard some of their songs, and they’re totally different than Running Wild. To do everything about pirates is great, but I would never personally do a band only about pirates. It would be too limiting for me if I had to write only about one topic. That’s why I’ve never had a full record about pirates.

It’s funny that Alestorm even mention Running Wild in one of their songs…

Oh! (laughs) I didn’t know that before, it’s new to me!

Yeah, in the song “Scraping The Barrel” they sing, “You may think you've heard all this music before / That Running Wild did it back in '84 / But times are a-changing and we don't give a damn! / So if you don't like it, go start your own band!” You should check it out!

This is great! (laughs)

By the way, are you interested in what is going on in heavy metal at the present time? Do you like any of younger bands?

You know, I’m really not so much in the heavy metal scene anymore. I listen to totally different kinds of music, I also listen to more modern stuff like Papa Roach, My Chemical Romance and 30 Seconds To Mars, the stuff from the ‘70s and everything. I’m not as much into the heavy metal scene as I was in the ‘80s. I have heard some records, a few days ago I heard the new Iron Savior album, “The Landing”, which I think is great. I have also heard the new album of Mad Max, “Another Night Of Passion”, and it’s a really great hard rock album.

Where did you get inspiration to write “Me And The Boys”? I know that you’re a big fan of Slade, but it’s never manifested so much in your music before?

This is right. You have to see that “Me And The Boys” was originally written for Toxic Taste. But we didn’t use it because it was too heavy for that kind of project. That’s why I put it away, and when I was writing the songs for “Shadowmaker”, it came to my mind to take the song back and work it up a little bit in a different way. And it really worked! It’s a kind of statement – when I was growing up in the early ‘70s, one of my favorite bands was Slade, and they were always an influence for me, especially the way that Noddy Holder was singing. That’s why this song worked so good as a complement to the other songs.

You’ve mentioned Toxic Taste a few times – is there any future for this band?

We haven’t decided it yet. We had to put it away, first of all, because I wanted to do Running Wild, and, second, we have another project called Giant X, which is a hard rock / metal project with a lot of blues influences. We decided to stop Giant X for a while because we wanted to finish Running Wild, but we will go on with that immediately after I finish all the promotion for “Shadowmaker”.

And what will happen with the project that you mentioned in the beginning of our interview – the re-recording of old Running Wild songs? Do you still intend to finish it at some point in the future, or have you given it up?

We just wanna wait. Olly Hahn from SPV said that he thinks as we put out the new record, Universal will put out the old records again. In this case, re-recordings will not make any sense. They would just make sense if the songs are not on the market. We have so many new fans who approached us after the big show in Wacken and said, “Running Wild are a great band, but I never knew that this band is so great!” They really wanna have the old songs and old albums, but they can’t really buy them, because they are not on the market anymore. We just have to wait and see what Universal are going to do with the old records, this is the main point.

It’s kind of weird – you say that there’s a lot of interest from labels in having this old stuff re-recorded, and Universal is not willing to re-release those albums. It seems to me that the music business nowadays is pursuing really strange ways…

It’s a really strange situation. Some people try to buy this stuff, they really want labels to sell it to them, but labels don’t want to do it, and they don’t tell the people why they don’t wanna sell it. They have the rights to those records, that’s the problem, and they can do whatever they want. It’s a shame, and it’s really sad, but I can’t change anything about it.

What is going to happen with the albums that you released on G.U.N. Records?

G.U.N. Records are no more either, but BMG owns the rights to all records. Moreover, they have the rights to both the records and the songs. You have to see – these are two different types of rights. You can have the rights to the masters and the rights to the titles. The rights to the titles for all the albums we released up to and including “Masquerade” (1995) came back to me in 2006. And the rights to the songs which we put via G.U.N. Records are still on the side of BMG. I have no right to re-record those songs. That’s why when we put out the live DVD from Wacken, we played two songs - “The Brotherhood” and “Draw The Line” – from two albums released via G.U.N., but we couldn’t use them, because BMG said “no”. That’s why they are not on the DVD.

Speaking about business – it is generally believed that nowadays in order to survive a band must tour as much as possible. But Running Wild has not been touring actively for ages. Is this likely to change in the light of the current situation in the music business?

We really figured out that it doesn’t make any sense to play all over the world, every time and on every corner. If you do just a few shows with a big set and everything, it’s pretty much more worth to the fans and to everybody than if you play everywhere all the time. That’s just I stopped doing big tours – the cost was just so high, that it was not possible to do it in the right way to show how Running Wild should be on the stage. In the future there will be no real touring, we will just do some events or maybe some festivals where we can do what we want to do with the live stuff.

How do you look back at your performance at Wacken in 2009? It looks like everything that could go on with the show did go wrong – terrible weather, loss of data, a huge delay in the release of the live recording…

It was really weird. We talked about that on the phone and said that it would be the worst case – and that’s exactly what happened. (laughs) The band rocked, but for the guys on the stage it was really no fun to play there. It was so fucking cold that Matthias was not even able to play with two feet because his pedal didn’t work. The rain was so hard and even though we had the roof over the stage, all the time I was singing I was standing totally in the rain. Hell was breaking loose when we played “The Battle Of Waterloo”, and the weird thing about it is that it was the same weather on the actual day of the Battle of Waterloo. (everybody laughs) It was raining hard, and it was so muddy, but the people were standing there under the pouring rain up to the last song that we played. I know that a lot of people got a cold after that, and a really serious one, but everybody was there until the last note we played. The fans were so great, and we really appreciate that. That also pushed up the whole band on stage to get through all the odds we had to beat.

As far as I understand, you had serious problem with mixing the audio, because the only thing that survived was the stereo recording, and there was no way to do the surround sound mix. Did you have any opportunity to fix anything, or is the sound which we now hear on the CD and DVD exactly the sound that you played that night?

We had just the stereo tone, all the individual tracks were deleted by the company in charge of it. So we had to figure out one last time what we were going to do with it. Is it possible to do a record of that? Could we use it? We used every technique we had to just amp up the sound, bring up guitars or bring down the bass or drums wherever possible. We had a sound engineer who also did the new record with me, his name is Nikki Novy, he did a lot of things during the mastering process. We really did everything that we could do with it, and I think the final result we had was great under those circumstances. It’s not the best record of all times, for sure, because we didn’t have the possibilities to do it, but I think it’s a good statement of what we played that night, and what the fans got to see, so now they have something that helps them to remember what was happening there that night.

I think for our show at Wacken had the highest number of visitors ever, there were about 150,000 people there, nearly twice the regular capacity that the festival has. I looked from the stage, and the space near the entrances was as packed as the first rows. Usually after the first song you can easily get closer to the stage, but that night, I think, you couldn’t move closer to the stage until the encore.

As far as I understand, the setlist for the Wacken show was put together on the basis of a voting among the fans. How much are your personal favorite Running Wild songs different from fans’ favorite songs?

It was very hard, because we intended to put a very balanced set together. Like I have always said, a lot of people want this fast song in the set and that fast song in the set, but I can’t do it, because I have to think about the drummer. (laughs) He can’t play two hours of double bass, it’s impossible. We had some songs which for sure had to be in the set – “Under Jolly Roger”, “Conquistadores”, etc. – and for me it was clear that we would start out with “Port Royal”. There were songs that people really wanted to hear – “Whirlwind” and stuff like that - so we added them. When we played the previous show at Wacken, it was in 2003, we played “Treasure Island”, so I said, “If we played “Treasure Island” the last time, now we will for sure play “The Battle Of Waterloo”. Some songs were proposed by the fans, but some songs I figured out myself.

When you’re writing a song, are you surprised when it becomes a classic, or do you know from the start that you have written something that will be loved by the fans?

Oh, it’s different. Funny how it seems, most of the absolute classic Running Wild songs are the songs that I wrote in half an hour. “Under Jolly Roger”, “Conquistadores”, “Little Big Horn”, “Bad To The Bone” were all written like that. Maybe this will happen to the material of the new album (laughs), because it was written in the same way, it all came out so naturally. All the really big songs of Running Wild are fast-written songs.

As long as I am from Russia, I have to ask you this next question. There was a sort of scandal two years ago when Jens Pohl, the webmaster of the official Running Wild forum, banned all Russian users from the forum saying that a Russian fansite of Running Wild was illegally distributing the “ReUnation” tribute. Are you aware of this situation, and if yes, what do you think of it?

No, I hear this for the first time. It’s really funny… I’m not aware of this at all.

Now a few very short questions: everybody knows how the name Rock’n’Rolf came about. But how did you come up with the name T.T. Poison?

T.T. stands for Toxic Taste, this was put there in the first place, but after that I had to figure out a last name for the public. “Poison” maybe came from the red color, because from the beginning it was clear that, of all the band members, I was the one who was getting the red color. Then we continued in this vein and figured out all the other bandmembers’ names so that they had something to do with the word “toxic”, such as Marc Acid and Andy Caustic.

What is your favorite Running Wild cover song by other bands?

I think on the last tribute album there was a very femalish version of “Riding The Storm”. And there was also a very modern version, a kind of a ballad, of “Angel Of Mercy”. That was a song I really liked, because it had nothing to do with heavy metal, but it was a great song, they put “Angel Of Mercy” in a totally different environment”. That was really interesting.

You celebrated your 50th birthday last year. How much does this date mean to you? Was this any kind of turning point, or was it just an ordinary day?

It’s just the same as before – I think age has nothing to do with you. If you feel old, then you’ve got a problem, but if you feel young at heart and you can do whatever you want, it’s fine, you just enjoy it. I really don’t care about me being 50, it’s just a number. It means nothing to me in that case.

There is a book on the story on Running Wild in the works. How much are you personally involved in it? When shall we expect it to be released?

I don’t know. There were some plans to do a book, and I gave my permission, but it didn’t come out that way. So I don’t know which book you refer to, and I have nothing to do with it. I don’t know who’s writing it and I don’t know when it is coming out. I know that Jens Pohl also planned to do a book, but it was some time ago, and we haven’t talked about it lately. So far I haven’t read any books about Running Wild.

My final question, of course, is about your plans for the future. Do you plan to continue doing Running Wild records, or do you intend to focus more on other musical projects?

There will be a new Running Wild album, absolutely, but I can’t really tell you when. Like I said before, my project Giant X that I’m doing with PJ, my live guitar player and also the guitar player for Toxic Taste, is what we will do after I finish the promotion and everything for “Shadowmaker”. We will go on with the production, we have four songs ready so far, and there are talks with SPV, they are absolutely interested in having the band. We have to see what comes out of that. There are some more things to do, but I can’t tell you when.

Running Wild on the Internet: http://www.running-wild.de/

Special thanks to Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) for arranging this interview

Roman Patrashov
March 12, 2012
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