Jens Pohl

Rolf Kasparek

"Victory", the eleventh studio album of Running Wild, is available since January now. The opinions about the new album are very different. I personally think that "Victory" is magnificent because of the varied songs compared to the last two albums...

When you look back, how do you feel about all the albums you have made? Seeing it from today's point of view, which period in the history of the band do you consider as rather strong, and which would you say was rather not so good?

I think the entire professional career in all its fifteen years has been one single learning process as far as songwriting, production and self presentation goes. I think there has been a constant development from one stage to the next whereas "Death Or Glory" was the only exception where we had musically been getting off the track a bit, but with "Blazon Stone" we'd already got back to a clear definition of the direction. Putting the albums in a rough frame, I would say there have been three periods in the development, the first starting with "Gates To Purgatory" and ending with "Port Royal", the second from "Death Or Glory" to "Pile Of Skulls" and the third from "Black Hand Inn" to where we are now. Whereas each period was based on the respective previous one.

Why has the songwriting been constantly developing towards more and more simple structures since the "Port Royal" album? Why have you moved away from rather complicated arrangements with breaks and tempo changes - "Calico Jack" from the "Port Royal" Album shall be a prime example for this - toward the more and more identical sounding double bass rhythms and the very straight song structures? Only now with "Victory" Running Wild seems to be going back into a more groovy sort of direction...

What about songs like "Tsar", "Ballad Of William Kidd", "War And Peace", "Treasure Island" and the most ambitious Running Wild effort ever, "Genesis"? I don't think that the concept of the songs has a simpler structure nowadays, even though it is certainly more consequently and more logically arranged. With "Victory" we are certainly going back into a more groovy sort of direction, but that was no intellectual decision but the logical consequence that resulted from the song ideas.

How come there has been no further live album since "Ready For Boarding"? Especially fans from Asia and America who haven't got the chance to attend a concert would love to feel the unique atmosphere at a Running Wild concert at least at home in their living room... And how do you refer to the statement Running Wild have been meant to be more kind of a mere studio band rather than a live band lately? In what sense does that stand in relation to the fact that you used to have the reputation as Germany's best live band back in the 80s, something you were proud of at that time?

With the release of live albums, the record company always plays a big role as well. Live albums involve a considerable high amount of costs, but on the other hand you usually don't earn much with them, simply because the sales are always far below those of a studio album. So that's why the record companies are usually not very motivated to take such a project about, so that's about the reason why there has been such a long silence. However, there has been talk with GUN Records about a project for the near future. That would be a team collaboration between GUN and NOISE Records, which again means quite a considerable amount of work. I don't think that Running Wild are meant to be a studio project rather than a live band. It's just that the way we work in the studio is totally different from the way we go on live on stage. In the studio I do a lot on my own, when we play live we are a band that consists of four musicians with the same importance. Besides, I think that Running Wild shows still speak for themselves.

Why has there been no further live video since "Death Or Glory Live" even though you said at the time that you were not too happy with the result? Why were things just dropped after it had turned out that the video footage you had filmed at the City Hall in Offenbach on the "Blazon Stone" tour wasn't good enough for a release?

The answer to that is pretty much the same as for the last question, especially as live videos usually mean a minimum of a commercial success that is even below that of a live CD. The recordings we did on the "Blazon Stone" tour were never meant to be released as a live video as there were no professional sound recordings. The footage was rather meant to serve for a possible video clip, but in the first place we just wanted to have them for ourselves to see how the live show comes across, where we do little mistakes and can work on these to improve our performance.

In the past you used to show a great interest in the history of pirates and buccaneers. What is your personal opinion about Bartholomew Roberts? He seemed to be much more worth mentioning actually than somebody like John Rackham for instance...

He was certainly a big personality of his time, but that is no reason to do a portrait song about every single pirate really because that would be just a mere repetition that would become pretty boring after a while. When I was preparing myself for the "Port Royal" album, I somehow came across a report about Calico Jack which then inspired me to write the song of the same name. I just wasn't that fully informed about the whole pirate genre at that time.

Since the "Pile Of Skulls" album, the amount of songs that deal with the history of pirates and buccaneers has become less and less - on "Victory" there aren't any songs about the topic at all - whereas there have been more and more songs about esoteric and mystic topics. Do you think the piracy theme has been exhausted and has just no further things to offer, or is just that your personal interests have changed over the years?

Actually, there was also just one song on "Blazon Stone" about the topic, namely "Slavery", and the same applies to "Under Jolly Roger". As far as the lyrics go, I have never limited myself to just that one topic and I have always said that I would never force myself to write a song about a certain topic just for the sake of it, because the ideas must come spontaneously and must be natural. The fact that there is no pirate song on "Victory" doesn't mean either that there will never be one again at some point in the future, it just reflects that there were other basic ideas this time. I don't think that the lyrics have developed into a different direction, it is rather that new ideas and influences have been added really. By the way, there are four songs on "Pile Of Skulls" that deal with the pirate theme, but that just as a remark.

With "Victory", you have led the good against evil trilogy to its end. What can we expect next? Will there be any songs about pirates again? Will there be any further epic songs in the style of "Treasure Island" or "Genesis"? Have you already got any new ideas for the next album or are you thinking about calling it a day in the near future, which of course nobody would like to see? After all Running Wild have been going for more than twenty years...

Well, as we haven't even toured with "Victory" yet it is obviously much too early to say what sort of topic might come next. I can't say either what sort of musical direction the next album will have. The only thing that is for sure is that we are by far not thinking about calling it a day yet.

Could you ever imagine to change the style of Running Wild like W.A.S.P. for example tried to do in 1997? Are Running Wild ever going to play a ballad?

Changing the style is always an intellectual process that has nothing to do with what I associate with music, and that are: feelings! We have already made a ballad, namely "Ballad Of William Kidd"! A ballad is a tragic story presented by a person, just to point out the actual definition of the term 'ballad'. Nowadays people usually associate something totally different with it, but that sort of music doesn't interest me at all.

Last year, five of the older albums were re-released in a remastered version along with some bonus tracks. Are there any plans to re-release the remaining albums in a newer format as well, these possibly also with a number of extra tracks like a studio version of "Purgatory" for example, or songs like "Hallow The Hell", "War Child" or "King Of The Midnight Fire", which Uwe Bendig was singing the lead vocals on back in the early days?

There were some good reasons to re-release those five albums which I have declared many times in the public before. As there are no further unreleased songs existing, a re-release of the other albums would make no sense. As for the songs you name, these haven't even got anything to do with the line-up on "Gates To Purgatory", so they definitely don't come in question for a release.

What do you think about the so called tribute albums? Which song of what band would you like to record some day and contribute to a tribute album if there was the chance to do so? Or is it rather that such a thing would not come in question for you? After all "Revolution" by the Beatles has really become an ingenious number...

I was offered to take part in the Judas Priest tribute albums at that time, but I turned it down because I'm not interested in tribute albums. When I want to do a cover version, I just do it, same as I did now with "Revolution". But I don't need to have a special reason like a tribute album.

Why has there never been a new fan club since the split of the "Metal Pirates"?

As some fans may know there were some more awkward things happening also as the fan club had already been split for a while, things that had occurred out of the same context. So with regard to that, both my record company, my management and also myself were pretty fed up with these sort of activities. So a proper fan club of its own was never something we were thinking about for a long time. We will see what will be happening in the future.

How can it be that concerts outside Germany haven't been held anymore because it is according to you financially not worth the effort? The last complete European tour that did this title justice was the "Blazon Stone" tour. How does that stand in relation to the fact that the fans especially in the south European countries and also in Brazil have been begging for concerts for years, so that despite the high costs of the stage production you should still earn money out of it? Jörg Michael has said himself that when he was touring in Italy with Stratovarius in 1996, the promoters were begging him on their knees to make a Running Wild concert in Milan possible, and that every second fan at the gig was wearing a Running Wild shirt. Also the appearances at festivals have been little, whereas especially a show at Wacken Open Air always would have seemed close at hand. On the one hand because Wacken is close to Hamburg, on the other hand because the festival is usually attended by an international audience not only with fans travelling over from nearby countries like Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Belgium or Spain, but also with some people making it over from the USA and from Brazil... This year at least the Swedish fans can look forward as you will play at Sweden Rock Festival. Will you play any further concerts in foreign countries then?

As you are suggesting the "Blazon Stone" tour, I have to say that we lost some DM 70'000 on that tour just because of the foreign shows, simply because the wages the promoters paid were by far not enough to cover the daily costs so that we ended up that we had to pay these from our private reserves. As far as the examples go that you are naming, it is true that we were made these offers, but it doesn't matter at all how many people come to the gig in the end when the wages the promoter is offering is not enough to cover the costs. So in other words, you can calculate beforehand how much money you will lose if you decide to do these shows. Especially when it comes to festivals, only a very little amount of the money the fans have to pay for the tickets go to the bands as their wages. Those who cash in most of the money are the promoters, that just as an information about the high tickets prices. Apart from the festival in Sweden there are some more things we are currently talking about, but these are not confirmed yet, also because of the reasons mentioned above.

As for the end, a question about the current situation with regard to the state of your drummer... Since the departure of Jörg Michael the question of who would replace him remained open for quite a while. There certainly have been offers from a number of candidates for the job... So why have you instead decided to recruit an as yet unknown musician - Angelo Sasso - rather than a well known drummer? Also rumour has it that Angelo Sasso - a friend of yours as you say who usually doesn't have much to do with Heavy Metal - is not even a person. Can you perhaps tell us a little bit more about that? As for the live shows, you will have Efti on the drums again. Would it not be close at hand to have him as a permanent band member now? After all he would perfectly fit in the band as he proved in an impressive way during the "The Rivalry" promotion tour...

It was just a suitable situation to work with my friend. Angelo Sasso is a pseudonym but he sure is a person! As for the live shows, this is a completely different story. Efti will be drumming with us. What will be happening when it comes to the next album however, I don't know yet because there is still a lot time until that will start. The tour and the festivals come first now.

Many thanks, Rolf, for your time and hugh success with the "Victory" tour!!!

Copyright © 1996-2000 Jens Pohl. Translation by Löffel.