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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Running Wild

Interviewed by Mike Korn

Interview with Rock N’ Rolf of Running Wild from 2012


When you originally announced the end of Running Wild, did you kind of have it in the back of your head that it would return some day?

It's hard to say, because the band really had to come to an end for me to get my head clear and get away from it all. The last album was such a hard process to go through when I was writing. I threw so many ideas away because they weren't strong enough to go on the album. I said, “OK, this doesn't feel right anymore so this has to come to an end.” To be honest, I don't know, I really don't know, but I have to say it was good to put an end to it for a while, so I can concentrate on different things and forget about Running Wild for a time.
MSJ: Do you remember the exact moment when you knew the band had to return?
It was a funny thing. Around 2010, a record company had an idea to re-record some of the material from the first nine records, which were no longer available. You couldn't get anything up to the record Masquerade. They said, “OK, let's try to re-record some of this stuff for the younger fans.” I knew there were actually a lot of younger fans that came late to the band and never had the chance to buy the classic records. You can get the old records on the Internet, but it's way too expensive. I agreed to this, but then the record company said, “we need some bonus tracks to make it interesting to fans who have the old albums, to give them something new.” I told them, “OK, I don't have any new songs because I stopped doing Running Wild. I just had some ideas to try out.” After Running Wild, I had a project called “Toxic Taste” and writing songs went very easy for that band. It was natural and it felt fresh. That's the way it should feel when you write songs. So I started to write the first bonus wound up being "A Piece of the Action,” and  the song was done in ten minutes! But then I said, Wait, this song is way too strong to waste as a bonus track!” So the second song I wrote was "Riding On the Tide.” Well, this song is also much too strong to waste like that! So I was writing on and on and I finally called the record company back and said, “We've got a problem here. I'm not able to write a song which is bonus material, I'm writing really strong material. I've got four new tracks and four tracks is half an album. So it makes more sense to me to write a full album. It's impossible for me to write on and on until I find a song which is not good enough for an album! So let's talk about a new Running Wild album,” and the record company thought this was great. So let's do it. And all the songs for the new Shadowmaker album were written in a half an hour or less. The writing process went so well in such a short period of time, I thought, “OK, this is the right time to bring Running Wild back because the songwriting was so great and the passion was back. It feels right again.” All the classic Running Wild songs like "Under Jolly Roger" or "Bad To The Bone" were written in about a half an hour.
MSJ: Would you say Shadowmaker was the easiest album you've ever written?
Absolutely! It's funny, because I've been doing this for such a long time. Everything came out of me so easily.
MSJ: When I listened to Shadowmaker, it seems like a tour through the whole history of Running Wild, from the faster stuff to the pirate songs to flat out rock n roll. Was that your intention all along or did it just happen that way?
It just happened. I didn't have any plan when I was writing. I just wrote what came into my mind. I was really astonished when I heard the demos for the album. They were ten songs that were so different from each other. There are some ideas coming into Running Wild now. When we played around with Toxic Taste, we experimented with some ideas and now we incorporated them into Running Wild, which is something I've never done before.
MSJ: Who is in Running Wild besides yourself these days?
Oh, the band right now is just me, because Running Wild has actually been a solo project for a number of years. This time around, we used a studio drummer and it's not necessary today to have the same guy playing live for me, as well. When it comes to live stuff in the next year, I gave the offer to the same people who played the last show at Wacken with me. Maybe they will have another job when it comes time to play live, but they will be the first ones I ask, for sure. For sure, P.J. will play live for me. He played on the last tour, he will definitely be my next live guitar player.
MSJ: There are three tracks on the new album that are linked together and tell the "Shadowmaker" story. What's the story behind the songs and how did you come up with the idea?
When I had written the lyrics for all the songs, I figured out that these songs had something to do with each other. I didn't plan it that way. "Shadowmaker" is based on old prophecies and some parts of the Bible. When Judgment Day comes, this guy will come around who is like the debt collector of the universe. The people who have done really evil things, they will give up their souls to him and he will just delete them, so to speak. That's the main story...dealing with what's happening today in the world. "Black Shadow,” I first wrote the riff and it was such a creepy riff, it gave me the idea for the title and the lyrics. It feels like a black shadow creeping up on the people awaiting judgment. It also relates to slavery in some ways. If you look at what's going on in the world today, there's a lot of stuff that's gone wrong. There are people behind that, who benefit from it and that's what the song is about. "Into The Black" plays on the same idea. It’s about all the stuff that makes it necessary for the Shadowmaker to come around. There's also an idea about technology in the song. If you look at the computer today, it's just a tool. It's really man's slave. But there are a lot of people today who have become slaves to the computer....becoming slaves to the internet, because they are addicted to it. This is pretty dangerous, because people are just switching their heads off!
MSJ: The real world is falling apart because people can now spend all their time in a computer world.
Right, right! The computer itself is just a's not the problem. It's the brains of the people that's the problem...the weakness inside.
MSJ: The song "I Am Who I Am" is a very strong statement. Have you felt a lot of pressure to change who you are?
No, not really, because I am who I am! That's exactly what I'm saying in the song. I'm the same kind of guy who has always tried to look behind the curtain and see what is really behind it. There's a lot of people trying to sell you lies. This is the main problem with everything today. There's a lot of people trying to cheat you. That's something I'm always aware of. That's why I said to the people, “this is the way I am, this is the way I act.” Think about it! It's a statement This is me...I just have to do this.
MSJ: The longest song of Shadowmaker is "Dracula", which is kind of a well worn subject. What did you bring to the story that's new?
Well, when I first got the idea to tell the story, I didn't want to tell it like these Hammer movies with Christopher Lee where Dracula's just the bloodsucking guy, the bad and evil one. I wanted to tell the real story told by Bram Stoker, where Dracula is a kind of tragic figure because he's suffering from the curse he's in. He doesn't want to kill. He knew for sure that he'd end up in hell and he doesn't want to go there!  His biggest fear was to spend eternity in hell. I wanted to show the controversy of this person. On one hand, he's a killer, a bloodsucking monster. On the other hand, he was a normal person who has a lot of fear that he can't escape his curse. The last part of the song is typical Running Wild. But there are also some parts which are new and different, which you wouldn't expect from Running Wild.
MSJ: I'd say that was the heaviest song on the album.
Yeah, we are trying out new things. I wanted to tell the Dracula story not only in the words but also in the music. It should be dramatic, because the story's dramatic. We have an intro for the song and it builds to a heavy climax when he realizes he will be in hell, that he is lost.
MSJ: The exact opposite of that song is "Me And The Boys,”  which is a poppy type song. Do you think the old Running Wild fans will understand this song? Did you know when you were writing it that this would be your poppiest tune?
The song was originally written for Toxic Taste but it was a bit too heavy for that. I changed the song a little bit, I wrote the lyrics. In the first place, the song is kind of a tribute to the heroes of my childhood. When I became interested in music, I had heroes like Slade. I thought this could be a great statement. They're one of my biggest influences and they put together things in the 70s like Running Wild did later on. I thought the song was a great way to pay tribute, not just in lyrics but in the style of the song.
MSJ: If we ignore the latest album Shadowmaker, what would you say is the most definitive Running Wild album?
It's pretty hard to say. I can easily pick out certain songs which are important for the band but I never could really pick out one album. The most successful one was Blazon Stone. It was our best selling album. I think the song "Under Jolly Roger" is our main song. It's the ultimate hymn from Running Wild. Songs like "Bad To the Bone" or "Riding the Storm" are also very important to the band. I would toss in "Prisoner of Our Times," as well. That's the only song we've played since the beginning. It was on our first album and we always play this song.
MSJ: You were the pioneer of pirate metal. What do you think of other bands that use the pirate image like Alestorm and Swashbuckle?
In the first place, it's funny to see that. They are new bands trying to do the same thing as Running Wild, but they don't really try to copy us. There are a lot of bands outside the pirate image that claim Running Wild is a big influence on them and that they grew up listening to us. It's funny, because these bands sound more like us or Helloween. I don't think that's the right way to go. In the first place, you have to keep the influence as part of your basic foundation and then you can find your own style on top of that. It's what we tried out in the early 80s, when we started out. The two bands you mentioned are totally different to Running Wild but they still have a pirate theme and I think this is great!
MSJ: What would you say the high and low points of your career are?
One of the high points for sure was the show at Wacken. There are normally about 75,000 people at Wacken, but when we played in 2009, there was about 150,000 people. It's pretty amazing to see that! They were all standing in the rain. It was raining like hell, it was freezing cold and the storm was coming up. But nobody went away. They sang along with all the songs until the last encore. It was amazing to see how much the band meant to people. The lowest point was when we first started out. A friend of ours was doing the management for us back then. Then, we found out when we started recording Under Jolly Roger that nothing he did was for the good of the was good for him. And he was a friend of ours. It was really disappointing, but I learned a lot through this experience. You learn a lot by mistakes, you know. That was really hard for everyone in the band.
MSJ: Do you see the Running Wild sound changing or do you think you've hit the perfect sound?
I always learn, I never stop learning. The funny thing is, I did Running Wild for such a long time and once I stopped doing that, I did Toxic Taste. And that was like a blank paper. We could do anything we wanted with that. I learned so much about myself as a producer, guitar player, singer and songwriter through this...maybe more than I learned in the 10 years before that.  It was great to see you can still learn, you can still grow and I think this really helped Shadowmaker. I think you always try to get better and reach higher levels.
MSJ: Do you think Running Wild has gotten the proper respect from the metal community, from journalists and fans?
I think we've gotten the right respect from the fans. From some parts of the press, really not! (laughs)  It's more important to me what the fans say, because they're buying the CDs, they're buying the tickets, they're buying the merchandise. It's more interesting what they think about us, not what the press thinks. When some guy with the press says “I don't like the album,” OK, that's fair enough, don't listen to it. But when a fan says “I don't like the album,” hmmmm, that's different.
MSJ: I know when Under Jolly Roger came out and you had the pirate image for the first time, a lot of the press didn't really know what to make of it.
Yeah, yeah, right, because it was totally different from what they expected from the third album. They said “you can't do this, because nobody's ever done it before.” I always say, somebody has to be the first to do something.  When Kiss put make-up on their face the first time, everybody said, “you can't do this!” Today, it's the biggest gimmick of all times in rock n' roll.
MSJ: It seems like even though the press didn't understand, the fans got it right away.
Right, yeah!
MSJ: What live plans do you have at this point?
There's no plans. There's no chance to do any live shows at this point because it will take me all through the summer to do the promotion for Shadowmaker. There's another project I was involved with before Running Wild that I had to put down for a while and now we have to finish that once I'm done with Running Wild. But we have talked about next year...maybe not a whole tour, but doing some fan shows or some festivals.  We get offered a lot of festivals, but today I couldn't make up my mind on what to do. We've got to finish the Shadowmaker promotion and then we'll see what the next step is.
MSJ: It would be great to see a show in the States, but that seems to be a long shot.
It is, because Running Wild is a band that uses hired musicians and it's really tough getting everybody's schedules to work together for a long tour, not to mention working out visas, getting pyrotechnics and technical stuff worked out.
MSJ: If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?
Oh! (laughs) It's hard to say!  First, I'd say Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia. He was from the 18th century and a pretty interesting guy.  It would be really nice to talk to him because he was such a talented person and he traveled all around the world of that time. (laughs) This is a strange question, nobody's asked me this before!
MSJ: Yeah, I try to come up with something different.
Yeah, absolutely. I really have to think about it, because it's an interesting question.
MSJ: What was the last CD you got just because you wanted to hear the band?
Hmmm, I have to think about this, too. This last year, I've been pretty busy with Running Wild. I really don't know!
MSJ: You must be really busy!
Yeah, that's the truth!
MSJ: In the long history of Running Wild, did you ever have a "Spinal Tap" moment where things went really wrong?
Yeah, there were a lot of things. We were on a tour in a very small town in southern Germany  and we had a day off. Everybody had a drink or two. One guy in the band...I won't tell you who it was...had way too much. It was the middle of the day and we were in the bar watching a video. It was the middle of winter. This guy said, “OK, I really have to take a p***.” There was a small river going through the city. We were sitting there watching the video and after a while, I say, “OK, he's not coming back!” Maybe he's fallen into the river! Immediately, just the minute I was thinking this, the door opened up and he was there, wet as hell. He fell head over heels into the river because he was so drunk. The funny thing is, everybody gets a cold on this tour! (laughter)
MSJ: It could have been tragic...
Absolutely! But the guy was so drunk, he just said, “I'm back, no problem!” It was really funny. He just went back to the bar and started drinking again. The same night, we were in the hotel and it was about two or three in the morning. He was going upstairs to his room and then he came back down wearing all his stage gear! (laughter) He was looking for the stage, but it was the hotel in the middle of the night! If he had actually left the building, I don't know what could have happened!
MSJ: Any last words for all the pirates out there?
Yes, I really hope all the Running Wild fans have the same fun listening to Shadowmaker that I did when I made the record!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at
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