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04/2011     Jens Pohl   Rolf Kasparek     (German Version)

This phone interview with frontman and band leader Rolf Kasparek was originally and exclusively conducted by Jens Pohl for This translation is used by permission.

"The Final Jolly Roger", a DVD with the final show at Wacken Open Air 2009, will be published shortly. Afterwards RUNNING WILD will definitely be history. What are you feeling at this moment? Melancholy? Or do you even feel relieved in some way?

Neither of it. The thing is that I had already been thinking about it for several years, and when I then was offered this show at Wacken, I thought: "Ok, that's perfect: 30 years RUNNING WILD, 20 years Wacken - what a great occasion to end my work with RUNNING WILD." I already knew two or three years earlier that I wanted to go into a different direction on the long run. I have been doing RUNNING WILD professionally for more than 20 years, and the band exists for about 30 years. It was just time to move on and start something new. Therefore I didn't feel any melancholy at all when I played the show at Wacken. I played this show like I played any other show with RUNNING WILD before, because, as I said, I already had made the decision to disband the band some years before.

It seemed to me as if you'd indirectly already announced the end of the band with the song "Draw The Line" on the last album "Rogues En Vogue", and that, maybe, you had been through with RUNNING WILD in large part. At that time, did you already know you rather sooner than later wanted to finish your work with RUNNING WILD?

No, definitively not. The song "Draw The Line" has a completely different meaning. It is about situations in life everybody knows. A situation you cannot stand any longer. And when you look back at it with some distance, you know you should have ended it a long time ago: "I've had enough." This didn't only refer to RUNNING WILD, but in general to particular situations in life. Just putting an end to it. When I was working on the album, I didn't think of leaving RUNNING WILD. It came to my mind later. Work on "Rogues En Vogues" ended in 2004, and the album was published in 2005. I think it was in 2006/2007 when I first considered starting something different. We were busy preparing our songs for TOXIC TASTE then, which we considered a "fun project", and we thought: "Come on, let's just do it. We're enjoying it. We really want to do it - so let's do it." But when I was working with TOXIC TASTE and we were spending a lot of time with it, I got further and further away from RUNNING WILD. I realized that I had worked on it long enough. However, if you ask me for the crucial reason that actually made me make the decision, I simply can't give you an answer, because I don't know it. It was just a development over a longer period of time, and in the end I said to myself: "Ok, now it's enough."

RUNNING WILD hasn't changed musically over the last 30 years, which some people like and others dislike. RUNNING WILD was a synonym for melodically and hard played Heavy Metal. And different from bands like JUDAS PRIEST for example, who undertook several more or less successful experiments during their career, RUNNING WILD was a constant within certain limits. So did you, at a particular point, feel the need to account to your fans in order not to exceed these limits?

No, actually not. For me, RUNNING WILD has become a brand. Like AC/DC, which is also a brand. This means people associate certain things with this music, just as it happened to me sometime. I myself associated certain things with RUNNING WILD and I never had any problems with it. I never said to myself: "Now you have to stop yourself, you cannot do that with RUNNING WILD! Of course I had some ideas for things which later turned out to be inappropriate for RUNNING WILD, but that's absolutely normal, it happens in every band. The second song on TOXIC TASTE's album "Toxification" for example, "Neon City Rock", is older than any RUNNING WILD song. I wrote it sometime in 1978 and never used it. I had it as a concept in a drawer, because I always knew this song doesn't fit to RUNNING WILD. For me, RUNNING WILD has always been what you've just said, a typical, traditional Heavy Metal band with a very own style and an absolute own character. And that was exactly what I had always wanted to do. I already used to say in interviews back then, that, if I did something different, it would not be under the name of RUNNING WILD. To me it would be a kind of false labeling, because anyone listening to RUNNING WILD expects RUNNING WILD and has certain associations with it. It's the same with AC/DC and KISS or JUDAS PRIEST. These are all bands of which people have certain expectations. And if you as musician are aware of this and act accordingly, then it's ok, but there are other bands who set themselves limits and cannot get of this cycle - but it never happened to me.

What do you think, in what way did the city you had grown up in left its mark on your music? What did change when you moved from Hamburg to Hannover?

Of course Hamburg left its marks on me because I was born there and grew up there. Hamburg is a big city with a certain aura. Certain characteristics are typical for the people there. In this respect, it had a strong influence on me. Hamburg's citizens are very calm in their way of dealing with particular things, and, actually, that's how I have always been as well. I always liked living there until I stopped producing in Berlin - at that time we did all productions for Modern Music in Berlin - and moved to Studio M in Hildesheim, close to Hannover. It became more and more obvious at that time that my closest friends live in Hannover and moving there was just logical. Living closer to the studio also saved me a lot of time. As a city, I didn't like Hamburg anymore in the end, although I was born there. The typical things I connected with Hamburg had gone some day, which made the decision easier for me.

So can you imaging ever coming back to Hamburg permanently?

Definitively not. No. I'm in Hamburg like once every six month or something. Then I go visit Otti in the "Ballroom" or just go to the port, for example. That's fine for one day, but I am quite happy when I get back home again. (laughs)

Looking back, which moment with RUNNING WILD has particularly touched you? And which situation would you most like to erase from the band's history, because it made you really angry?

It's always hard to give an answer to such a question. We had a lot of positive experiences! Of course the highlight is when people sing along with you, but that's the case in every concert. But it's way different when you have 150.000 people doing it, like in Wacken. (laughs) I still have strong memories of a show back in 1988/1989, we played in a stadium in Prague as headliner, and there were - I don't know for sure anymore - maybe 60.000 - 70.000 people. When we were going down the stairs to the stage, these people were shouting and screaming like crazy - and we all got goosebumps. It really was a very special moment for us, just because the expectations were completely different, because our German fans had already seen RUNNING WILD several times before, but these people saw us for the first time. The feeling that was in the air is inexpressible in words. It was a great thing...and then playing the first song...outstanding...! Of course, Wacken is always very special, that's for sure. A large number of people celebrating heavy metal - it's incomparable to anything else. In that, Wacken is a highlight, of course. And sure, there are many things I would like to erase from the band's history... (laughs) For example concerts that went totally awry. But there are so many funny things as well, or things that made me very angry. From were we stand today, for example, it was a huge mistake to ever engange Torsten Hanl as our manager - it caused a lot of trouble and we had to fight really hard to settle the matters he provoked towards the press, with his behavior as well, and to convince people that we weren't responsible for these things. But things like that are just part of it, you have to be able to learn from mistakes. That's normal. Of course we could have spared ourselves this trouble, but then, as I said, we couldn't have learnd our lesson from it.

Do you actually think you've achieved everything you wanted with RUNNING WILD? Or is there anything you just couldn't set about yet, and you think "That would be great!"?

You can always think in bigger terms (laughs), like making bigger shows or using better technical equipment. But it's always a matter of money. Of course you always have to keep in mind how many people actually come to your show and how you can finance everything. You don't get anything for free! In that, there are a lot of things you could have done...more fireworks for example, or other special effects. But in the end I am satisfied with everything, how our shows went off and what the band achieved. RUNNING WILD is a legend and people still celebrate our songs. RUNNING WILD is one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands in the world, I would say, and therefore I can look back at it with pride.

What impression did you get from the band's final performance at Wacken Open Air in 2009? I had the feeling that it took some time for Jan, at least, to warm up and be part of the band. In contrast to this, I only rarely saw Rolf Kasparek in such a good mood that he even acted as animateur during "Branded And Exiled"...

The weather conditions were miserable... (laughs) It was rather a fight or a battle for us than a concert... Let's put it this way: For half a year you prepare yourself every day before the show, like we always did, and you are in a room where it's really hot, like in summer, the air-conditionning is running, because you're sweating like hell, and one day you get used to these temperatures. And then we went on stage to play our songs and we were met by temperatures below zero, with storm, with snow (starts laughing) and rain and whatever, your fingers almost freeze to your guitar, and the drummer's legs are so cold that he can hardly play the double bass. These are not the conditions a musician hopes for. Nobody hopes for such conditions. However, of course, we were professional enough to cope with this situation and perform our show, that's for sure, but we would have hoped for better weather. A great praise to our fans who stood in this shitty weather in the rain for two hours and celebrated our music. Hats off! But it wasn't much nicer on stage either, because the rain was lashing from the side on the stage so that I often stood in the rain with my guitar. Extremely unpleasant...

Everbody, without exception, was wondering why you didn't invite any former band members to the farewell-show, who could have played one or two songs as special guests. I'm quite sure none of the guys would have said "no"...

Very simple. I'm not a person who lives in the past - I live in the present for the future. Those people used to be part of the band a long time ago. And the band, the guys who were part of it on this very evening, they wanted to play this show and wanted to finish the RUNNING WILD chapter together with me. I don't like bringing up former musicians, who haven't been in the band for 20 years or so, back on stage. And it would have been complicated concerning the organization prior to the show and its timing as well. I just wanted to perform as many songs as possible and give a two hour show, which is usually not common at a festival. We got a special permission for these songs from Holger (editor's note: Holger Hübner, organizer of Wacken Open Air), because we wanted to play this final show. I also gave thanks to those who had been part of the band over the time. Hats off to all those who worked on this project. But, like I said, when the band is on stage, you only see people who are currently part of it.

Will RUNNING WILD really be history after the release of the live-DVD or is there a chance of a comeback sometime, if not live then maybe with a new album?

To be honest - I'm currently not thinking about this at all, because in the future I'm going to do a lot of other things. By the way, I finished working on the live-DVD in July 2010 already, and at the moment I am in touch with Dirk Illing, who is doing the front cover artwork. It's almost done, just one more meeting with the guys doing the editing, and the DVD is finished. And there is another project in planning and several producers would like to do it and several record companies have already indicated their interest respectively. As the old albums from Modern Music and later Sanctuary Records are unavailable, because Universal Music is not interested yet in republishing them again, we had the idea of producing a double-CD as a best-of album. And as I got back the copyright for the songs in 2006, I can record some old songs - at least 22 or 23 tracks - completely new. This is definitely a project I want to finish this year in order to publish it at the latest next year. This will be a good opportunity for newer fans to buy these songs, for example from the albums "Death Or Glory" or "Port Royal" and so on.

Do you still have some ideas for songs which you haven't recorded yet?

Of course we want to have two or three completely new tracks on this best-of CD, because I certainly have some song ideas that haven't been published yet. Apart from that, I am working on a project with my guitar player PJ. EMI/Elecrola published several albums with soundtracks and themes for TV-shows, and for the area of Heavy Metal we produced a song called "Burning Wheels" for EMI. PJ composed it, and I wrote the lyrics and sang it myself. Right now we are in the planning stage. In any case, it's going to be an all studio project, but it could become an entire album. That's the current situation. By the way, you can read on the Internet that the song "Burning Wheels" is my song, but it isn't. I didn't record it, neither did I play the guitar and I didn't produce it - I just played one part of the solo and did the lead vocals. It would be similar with further projects. That means I will not be the producer, but only act as singer, write the lyrics and maybe contribute one or two songs myself, but at this moment of time I can't give you more precise details. We'll see. For now, we slowly start working on this project, and in this regard, we still have to settle and discuss several things.

So does this mean you are not going to stop making music completey?

No, it doesn't. I've always said that if I'm going to do something different, it will certainly not happen by the name of RUNNING WILD. I have some ideas that weren't right for RUNNING WILD, but that could work out with this new thing with PJ...

Are you actually interested in projects like Tobias Sammets' AVANTASIA? Can you imagine getting something similar on the way, or working on such a project as guest musician? If not as singer, then maybe as a guitar player?

Of course, everything is always possible. But right now I am busy with two particular projects that are going to take a lot of time. As I said, for now I am working on this best-of CD and it requires a long planning, because it's not only five songs or so, but we want to newly record at least 22 songs. And there is also this other project with PJ, created for fun, and we now have to look what we can actually make of it.

Fine, ok. Something completely different: 2012 - do you think there will really something happen on December 21, 2012 that will change mankind and our world as we know them today?

Certainly something will happen in the next years. However, I don't think it will happen exactly on December 21, 2012. (laughs) This date refers to the Maya calendar. And one of its cycles, which - as far as I know - lasts 5.000 years or so, will end on this very day. Anyway, this doesn't mean something will happen that day. It only means a cycle comes to an end. Otherwise...everbody should notice that big changes are taking place in our world at the moment. Natural desasters, birds falling dead from the sky, fish swimming dead in the sea - all this reminds me of the apocalypse. I don't want to link it with a particular date, but I believe these are just necessary natural changes, because it cannot go on like it is at the moment. Mankind has reached a certain limit, and we can just hope nobody will be so stupid to even start a nuclear war...

Finally, Rolf, I wish you all the best and of course we all hope that your future projects will also be as successful as RUNNING WILD. Would you like to use this occasion to tell anything to your fans?

I already mentioned it at Wacken, and it will also be on the DVD: I thank all the fans for their loyalty over all these years. Without you, the fans, and without support, RUNNING WILD would have never been possible. I'd like to say a big thank you to those who bought our records, and later the CDs, because that's why I could make this music for so long and artistically express myself like I always wanted to. Thanks a lot!

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