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Interview

Rolf Kasparek On New Song "Bloody Island": "I Really Knew That Would Be A Classic"

Dictionaries define "resilient" as "returning to the original form." For Running Wild, the title "Resilient" is more than just the name of the fifteenth studio album, its a testament to rebounding, staying true and also "returning to the original form." In 2009, as the "final jolly roger" echoed through the small town of Wacken, Germany, fans were left with a lasting impression of one of metal's most beloved acts. The original metal pirates were done...or were they. In October of 2011, the word came out that as mainman Rolf Kasparek was writing bonus track material for what was supposed to be the reissuing of earlier Running Wild releases, the songs seemed strong enough to bring back the legendary band. "Shadowmaker" was born and released in 2012 via Steamhammer/SPV Records (see review here). It was met with mixed views from fans and critics.

After the release of "Shadowmaker," the ideas began to flow like the days of "Under Jolly Roger," "Pile Of Skulls," "Blazon Stone" and "Black Hand Inn." It started with the opening riff of "Soldiers of Fortune," and cascaded into the most fun Kasparek has had since the old days. As a matter of fact, there were so many ideas, the metal pirate couldn't record them all. "Resilient" is a testament to those old days (see review here) with modern production behind it. The album comes out via Steamhammer/SPV within the next week in Europe (Oct. 2nd - Scandinavia; Oct. 4th - Germany; Oct. 7th - Rest of Europe) and North America on Oct. 22nd.

Rolf sat down to discuss the album, the band's legacy as the originators of "pirate metal" and whether we will ever see Running Wild live again.

CROMCarl: So let me just start right out of the gate - “Resilient” really brought back some early memories you know, is that kind of what you were aiming for?

Rolf: Uh, you can’t do that with intention, it’s what whatever came to my mind, you know… and figured out when it was finished that some of the songs could easily be on an album like “Pile of Skulls” or “Blazon Stone” or something like that. So, I really can’t just sit down and say I want to write a song like in the old days…that wouldn’t work you know.

CROMCarl: Yeah, I noticed with “Shadowmaker,” and shortly after that when Giant X came out, there were a lot of similarities between those two because they were more into the rockin’ kind of vein and there was such a difference between, or at least I noticed a difference in riffs on “Resilient”…it seemed a little bit crunchier than normal, you know?

Rolf: yeah, yeah it was, because you know I was always was into hard rock and heavy rock and first when I bought my first guitar in ’72 there was no heavy metal and when I found it hard rock became Running Wild was around ‘76 or ‘77 there was no heavy metal you know, I was listening to hard rock, blues rock and stuff like that that was around that day so this is a big influence to me, a particular influence when we started out with the band in ‘79 for sure was a starting point for US and British Heavy Metal was Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and all these bands, were coming up so it was a big influence when we gotten started out you know, so there’s both have influence as a musician.

CROMCarl: Now do you think that with Giant X now sort of as existing is that sort of like the outlet for Rock and Roll stuff and to separate it from Running Wild?

Rolf: Yeah absolutely. You have to see when we first started out with Giant X, you know from the first second I said I didn’t want to write that heavy metal kind of song for this project because when I try to write a metal song Running Wild comes out of that, that is what we want, it makes no sense and you know funnywise if you listen to Giant X all the heavy metal stuff which a lot of people say oh I can hear it was you, I say no I didn’t write the song, I didn’t play guitar on it, I just did the vocals, I wrote all the blues and Rock and roll stuff for the album.

CROMCarl: Right so you were just doing vocals for that that album, So is that sort of the way that’s gonna be going forward with that project?

Rolf: I don’t know we just talked about one song for the second album when we started out with the “Resilient” album planning and everything with the record company that first of all you have to do all the promotion for this album you know and when we finish we will get back and talk about that.

CROMCarl: Okay now when you recorded this album you there was a mention I read in a press release that you started with sort of precise lines now with the demos.

Rolf: Yeah it was the first time we really had the vocals on the demos because we had just wrote the songs and had some lines in my mind and just we go to the studio and record everything and wrote the lyrics and everything with the vocals, it was the first time I really wrote the lyrics of that and sang over harmony vocals so the songs were really done then, so when I tried to figure out the track listing of the songs and which should be on the album I had the songs with the vocals on the demos so I knew the songs would be like, so when it came to the production it was the first time I could really concentrate on smaller things when I recorded the vocals. It was pretty much easier you know because the main thing was done before that, so I was really concentrating on how I sing the songs.

CROMCarl: Right so now normally though up to this point when you were demoing it was basically just vocals and just the music then all the rest of it comes later?

Rolf: yeah right. This was the first time the songs were worked out like that you know with everything, even if you recorded all the stuff some of the solo guitars and rhythm guitars are played for the demo are exactly the guitar on the production, because they were played so easily with a kind of passion. I couldn't really redo this, especially if you are listening to a song like “Run Riot,” all the guitars are the guitars from the demo, because if it’s kind of passion and kind of power… I tried to do it again and it was not the same way. That’s why I said forget about it and I just dropped the little bits of pieces down that are not that good, and just keep that kind of pressure…that kind of feeling that’s behind it.

CROMCarl: Right and now you talked about some interesting topics on the album as well, one of songs in particular is “Crystal Gold.” which I don’t think there has ever been a song about the privatization of water sources. I thought that was really interesting

Rolf: Yeah, yeah…I heard the rumor for years that I really know all the stuff behind the curtain, so to speak, and um I heard as a rumor for years that they were trying this and I was working on this song musically. News came on the TV and they talked about that and I said wow I really have to write a song about that, and even if you have a look on “Rouges en Vogue” you have a song “Black Gold” about privatizing everything concerning oil just to get the power for that, and when they tried to privatize that water thing it not the first thing about making money you know the power of the people to suppress the people because they are not doing what they want, so nobody can live without water.

CROMCarl: Right exactly now the bonus tracks I didn’t get to hear as of yet, I preordered the limited edition so I’m waiting for those, but you have such great bonus tracks over the years especially Libertalia is one of my favorites and what goes into deciding what will be the bonus tracks…is it just leftover stuff or is it selected for a reason?

Rolf: no in this case considering “Resilient” - “Payola & Shenanigans” and “Premonition” - were already album tracks and I have this kind of role where I was just writing one of the tracks and I immediately and the idea for Soldiers of fortune was just there for 5 minutes all of the pieces were there I just had to put it down very quickly on tape not to forget anything and just come back to the song I was originally writing on. It was around 2 or 3 days they were coming up 3 more songs and the next song was “The Drift” and “Bloody Island” and “Run Riot,” all these songs were just coming out like that and it really took me around 2 weeks to put it down as a demo all the bits and pieces, but “Payola & Shenanigans” and “Premonition” were off of the record, because I had more than 10 songs, so there was a problem. It was really hard in the first place to figure out which songs should be on the album and what not. I was really playing around with it until the last seconds, so to speak, and its so big - “Premonition” especially and “Payola & Shenanigans” are as strong as the whole album is, so they are not really bonus tracks they are pretty much also album titles.

CROMCarl: Right and that’s what I was like getting at, was there just like a 10 song limit I guess on the regular edition you had to work with?

Rolf: Yeah, you know, because the record company said we want to have a limited edition, so we need some bonus tracks…because last time we had this kind of DVD and I didn’t want to do that again, because we just had it before that. I said okay we have so much songs when I was in the production and I recorded the guitars and recorded the vocals and put down on tape four more new songs, which just fell off my mind and not to forget them and I just did it but didn’t have the time to work on that, so we had songs and said okay we can do this.

CROMCarl: Right now you talked about before about the difference with “Resilient” as far as the way it came out, I know when you were doing “Shadowmaker” it sort of came suddenly to you that Running Wild was basically gone..and then you brought it back. This time you mentioned you had a whole lot more fun, you know writing it, was it like a recapturing of the wayit used to be like with Running Wild?

Rolf: Absolutely because in the early days when I was writing it was fun but I had to work out all the ideas I was having to get that and as far as concerning “Shadowmaker” and now “Resilient” totally different than it was ever before, I had so much great ideas I didn’t have time to record them all so it was never that way in the early days. It’s that these 10 songs from the album, you know, it’s pretty much different to that and it’s great because I can choose from these great ideas and even “Bloody Island” was a different musical idea I threw away as a benefit to the new idea because I put everything down on tape and the arrangement was there and I didn’t have to work on it really.

CROMCarl: Right, “Bloody Island” - as you mentioned about “Pile of Skulls” - which was my favorite album - it really does remind me a little bit of “Jennings Revenge,” especially the chorus, it’s kind of the first time in a while I’ve heard that sort of - for lack of a better way of saying it - that “pirate kind of way” really come through and it’s probably the best song that I’ve heard from you in so many years and its definitely my favorite on the album.

Rolf: It was very funny you know because sometimes as a musician when you are writing on a record and you’ve got a special idea for something, it was back then “Under Jolly Roger” when it was that way with “Conquistadores,” I knew this when I was writing songs I knew that song would be classic I knew it from the first point I cannot really describe why. It’s just the feeling that’s there I wrote all the ideas all the bits and pieces are put down on tape with “Bloody Island,” it’s not that I really worked on the song, I just put down all the ideas in my mind just 2 hours or something like that and that was the song. The song was there and I really try to turn around this bit of song but it didn’t work it really had to be the arrangement that was originally put down on tape, and the song had written itself, and from the first part when I was starting up the new idea for “Bloody Island,” I really knew that would be a classic and it truly turned out…everyone tells me it’s the favorite song on the album, even if they choose another one, everybody says “Bloody Island” is a classic to them even before the album is even released.

CROMCarl: And they are right too it has that same feel as that “Under Jolly Roger” type of song, now do you have sort of like a curious on the writing process again do you have sort of like a bank of material that you’ve collected over the years of maybe just different parts and pieces that you sort of use again or just start from scratch.

Rolf: I had some bits and pieces I collected before we started up with Giant X I had some ideas for Running Wild put down on tape about 3 or 4 songs but one song on the album was pretty much older than all the other stuff, I looked on the original file for this song which is “Desert Rose” the song has been done the first time from April 2006, it was always there when I did “Shadowmaker” I don’t know why I didn’t use this you know because it turned out to be a really great song, I don’t know I just was working on that and really figured this song added something to the album you know when you play different parts of the album.

CROMCarl: Just out of curiosity, was that written during the “Rogues En Vogue” sessions or after?

Rolf: It was after, after the tour I got the idea just to put it down on tape just not to forget it and I reworked the song and new lyrics for that and stuff like that but the song itself is the same.

CROMCarl: Now you mentioned about “Under Jolly Roger” and knowing it was gonna be sort of a classic when you wrote it…did you think at the time when you were doing “Under Jolly Roger,” because before that point there wasn’t really sort of this pirate image going on, but when that came out it sort of became the legacy of Running Wild…did you know that or did you sort of think that was gonna happen or plan it that way, or it just happened?

Rolf: It just happened because I couldn’t remember, I had the idea for the song for this riff and that day the title on the TV for the movie pirates the one from Polanski and the advertisement for that was so great and I figured out the riff sounded like pirates and said wow that was a really great title and I went to the rehearsal room and played it to the guys and they said wow that’s the best song we have so far for the album “Under Jolly Roger” and a great title for the album and so we said ok so we have to do the cover like that has something to do with that you know and the idea just to Adrian on the sails and somebody else in the band came with the idea to just play in pirate clothing on the back of the record, everything started with that, we didn’t make any plans, we didn’t sit down and say we need a new image, it just came out of that and the German press hated that, I can remember they really hated the pirate thing but said it works great it’s something different, it was the same guys it was just the pirate band Running Wild and said what?

CROMCarl: Its funny, because you know, and really people sort of like…I don’t know if they misinterpret a lot of the stuff that you write, but its almost like that became…. you’ve never really had more than 2 or 3 songs about pirates on any record you know what I mean, and it’s so funny that becomes the image!

Rolf: It was great we got a trademark and image we are not always necessary to use for an album you know. If you have a look on an album like “Blazon Stone,” there’s no song about that on the record you know? And no one noticed!

CROMCarl: …and you know what’s funny about “Blazon Stone” is that it had that feel, some of the songs felt like pirate songs…like “Slavery” felt like a pirate song, you know what I mean? That’s another one of my all-time favorites and I always considered it in my head to be a pirate song, yet it has nothing to do with it!

Rolf: yeah it was great for us that we could really do different stuff and always have this kind of trademark, I know that there are a lot of bands now using it the image and music like that but we were the original band.

CROMCarl: Now that you mentioned that there are a lot of bands just doing strictly pirate stuff…is that a flattering thing for you, or do you find that - especially when like Alestorm, who actually references Running Wild in the songs as being the original - do you take that as like a pride thing?

Rolf: Yeah, absolutely you know, because we started something. It’s the same thing if you look back to when KISS were just starting out and had a lot of pyrotechnics at a big show. They were the first band to do this and everybody wanted to do this even Running Wild, because its wild to have pyrotechnics and stuff like that, it’s a new thing and there’s a lot of bands coming up trying to use that for themselves. So bands doing the pirate thing, but doing different music than Running Wild – it’s great. I think it would be a problem if a band was coming around just trying to copy Running Wild…that wouldn’t work.

CROMCarl: yeah and the funny thing about that is there actually is and I can think of 2 or 3 of them off the top of my head that really do copy Running Wild. As a matter of fact, they have titles that are from Running Wild songs… so it does exist.

Rolf: yeah I know so, we also named the band because running wild is the song from Judas Priest but we didn’t try to sound like them, we took it as our influence and try to do our own thing with that and go our own way, I really think a young musician should do that, take the influence which you grow up with and just go your own way with that using it as a tool so to speak.

CROMCarl: Right and its funny because that was one of my other questions, you mentioned obviously running wild coming from priest, but like at the time when even “Under Jolly Roger” and before and slightly after people were calling you the Judas Priest clones, and you sounded nothing like Judas Priest to me.

Rolf: Absolutely. That’s not what we intended, because we lived up to that. It was a big influence when we started out with Running wild, for sure, because Judas Priest were our favorite band. The whole band could say that it was our favorite band at that time. Also, we were listening to Def Leppard or Saxon or Iron Maiden or something like that, but that was our big influence but we never tried to be a copy of Judas Priest it wouldn’t make any sense because Judas Priest was there a big band so we tried to find our own way, even if we tried to sound like Judas Priest and didn’t reach this the starting point where we started out, I think when we did “Under Jolly Roger” we were told you know we’ve learned from that.

CROMCarl: Right now I know last year or I think it was last year when I interviewed you the last time we were talking about the older albums and the fact that you don’t even have the access to even do anything with those albums is that still the case

Rolf: yes it depends on what you are doing in the future with that you know I always try to do what I feel this is the main point for me and if its right to me it should be the thing to do.

CROMCarl: Right, but I mean as far as the older albums like having the ability to reissue them if you wanted to, you couldn’t do that

Rolf: Yeah no, the problem is on the property - it hasn’t been released yet. They said they wanted to bring out all the other stuff the old stuff, but they didn’t do this…I don’t know why. The problem is - the rights for the mastering belongs to universal so they can decide what to do or not.

CROMCarl: Right…exactly. Ok, and now when you look back on all the years you been in music and everything is there a particular like if somebody came to you and said to you define Running Wild to me in one song that you’ve written… I know its hard, just curious….is there one that pops out of your mind that just sort of you know is not only one of your favorites, but sort of would describe Running Wild to someone?

Rolf: I think the biggest hymn for Running Wild you know the song that calls to people the most was “Under jolly Roger.” This is the classic for Running Wild. We always have to play that..there are other songs we also have to play, but it’s the song we started with, the pirate thing and everything and it the biggest hymn. We always have to play that.

CROMCarl: Is there one that’s personal to you?

Rolf: It’s really hard to say you know, I always really loved “Treasure Island.” It’s a really long song, but it’s a really well done song!

CROMCarl: Now the burning question - of course - on every fan’s mind…Are you ever going to bring back Running Wild on the live circuit?

Rolf: Yeah, you know - there will be no touring again, this is for sure…but when we finish all the promotion for this, I will go through the offers we have for all the festivals next year. It was planned to do [it] this year, but we couldn’t do that because of the production - it was in the summer, so there was no chance to do that, and I have to go through all the offers with the technical guys and see what we can do and what not.

CROMCarl: Great...that will happen next year, right.

Rolf: Yes

CROMCarl: ok great, Alrighty, that’s all I have Rolf. I really appreciate your time and best of luck with the album - it’s fantastic. I reviewed it and I loved it and you have always been one of my all-time favorite bands and always will be and I really appreciate everything you’ve done…

Rolf: Thanks!

CROMCarl: …and have a great day

Rolf: Yeah, bye!

CROMCarl's avatar

Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.

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