By Andrew Bansal
German veterans Running Wild released their sixteenth full-length studio album ‘Rapid Foray’ via SPV/Steamhammer on August 26th 2016, presenting a splendid set of anthemic old-school metal compositions delivered in a manner only they can. Founded in 1976, Running Wild have influenced and inspired bands across several generations, but led by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Rock ‘n’ Rolf Kasparek, the band themselves have stayed consistent and relevant, and continue to create compelling new music for their legion of dedicated fans throughout the globe. On Tuesday September 6th 2016, Metal Assault spoke to Rolf Kasparek to discuss the album in detail. Enjoy the insightful conversation below.
Rolf, it’s good to finally have you on Metal Assault. Running Wild released a new album recently called ‘Rapid Foray’. It’s your 16th studio album and you’ve had such a long career. When you release a new album, it must be hard to not look back at your own career. Are you still able to treat every album on its own?
Well, we always do the same thing on the record, but ‘Rapid Foray’ was different, and the funny thing is, I got almost the same feeling as the Running Wild debut album ‘Gates To Purgatory’ (1984). It just felt like the first album. I don’t know why and I can’t explain it. It was just the feeling that was around, and it was so loose and so much fun to do the record, even with a lot of work. I had to pick out these ten songs and the one instrumental from about 30-35 different basic song ideas that I had, just making sure what songs would add something to the album that it didn’t already have. So, it was a lot of work and detail, but it felt like a starting point and like I never did a record before. We had the #2 position on the charts in Germany last week, which isn’t normal for a heavy metal band (laughs). Normally you get around #16 or #20 or something like that. So it’s a very big success for Running Wild.
It definitely is. I’m sure the process behind this album was different too because it was delayed, as you had an injury. How did that affect the album?
It was around January 2014 when I broke my right shoulder. The joint had been broken, and it took half a year where I really couldn’t play guitar at all and couldn’t work on the material. The next half year I really had to recover my arm and make it work again. I was working on the album about 20-30 minutes a day or something like that because it was hurting when I was playing guitar. So I pretty much lost one year because of that.
Are you completely back to normal now?
Yeah, we played the Wacken Open Air festival last year as the headlining band and there was no problem for me, because I had the right doctors and everything, and they really brought me to the point where the arm was in full charge again, so to speak. Sometimes when I try to reach things at a height I really can’t grab it with the right arm, so there are some difficult bits here and there, but life is pretty much normal and I don’t feel it much or think about it.
You said you had a lot of song ideas for the album and you had to select 11 tracks out of them. Do you still feel as creative as you always were in that sense?
Way more! Back when I did the classic albums like ‘Death Or Glory’, ‘Blazon Stone’ or something like that, I just had the song ideas that I was working on for the album, and everything that landed on the album was all I had at that point. When I had this break and stopped doing Running Wild, I was doing projects like Toxic Taste without any pressure from the record company or anything like that, I wrote a lot of songs in a short period of time, about 80 songs. So, when I was going back to working on Running Wild for the ‘Shadowmaker’ album, I figured out that I could write in the same way because it was such a loose feeling for the first time in my life. I really could bring this feeling over to Running Wild. I’m more creative now than ever before. When I was still working on ‘Rapid Foray’ and doing the final mixes for it, I was writing the title track and three more songs for the next album (laughs). I just wanted to put them down on tape so as not to forget that stuff. So, I never had that before. I’m very much in a more creative period than I was during the classic stuff back in the ’90s.
That’s interesting. On this album, there are a couple of tracks that I wanted to talk to you about in particular. ‘Last Of The Mohicans’ is a long epic track and it’s got a lot of little complexities. How did that come together and how long did it take?
The song took about 17 years (laughs) because it was during the ‘Victory’ album that I first had the idea for do this song. But the other ideas I had at that time were not that great, so I put this one away because its idea itself was too great to be wasted like that. When I was doing ‘Shadowmaker’, I thought about it again but then I also had the idea for the song ‘Dracula’ and that one made it on the album. It was the same with ‘Bloody Island’ on the ‘Resilient’ album. For this album, the idea came back and I had collected so many bits and pieces throughout the years, when I started working out the track itself, the arrangement just came out naturally. I tried to put more details and parts into it, but it didn’t work. It was pretty much that kind of arrangement, and it told a story musically, not only with the lyrics. The story of the Mohicans is so complex that you really can’t write it in five verses like that, so you also have to tell it with the music. So that’s why the song has so many bits and pieces. But when I was arranging the song, I also figured out that these bits would be very heavy to play live and would need more than two guitar players. I had that at the back of my mind, but I said to myself, just forget about the live thing and do what the song needs. For some parts, there were about six or eight guitars at the same time. So the song is not playable live for a rock n’ roll band and we would never play it live, so we really could do anything the song needed to have to tell the story. So that’s why it’s pretty much the most complex song I ever wrote.
The other track I wanted to discuss here is ‘The Depth of the Sea – Nautilus’, the instrumental. Doing that is really old-school in the way of what Iron Maiden used to do back in the day, and I think it really completes an album when you have an instrumental track to go with all the other songs. Was that part of the plan, or did it just come out in a way that you couldn’t put vocals on it?
I already had ten songs for the album, but one night I was just jamming around with the guitar sound and it ended up sounding like the Nautilus, the engines and stuff like that. It really sounded like a submarine. So I decided to do a song named ‘Nautilus’, to make a 2-minute piece or something like that. But the track was getting longer and longer and it became a 4-minute track. I felt there shouldn’t be any words on that. I really wanted to tell the story with the mood of the music, and it became a very moody kind of piece of work. I really like the song because it’s so different to all the other songs, and that’s why I put it pretty much in the middle of the record, to have it as a kind of intermission or interlude. If you look back in cinema, when you had movies that were three hours long, there was an interlude in the middle when they were changing the film rolls. That’s what I was thinking about, to put in a song where you can lean back and just enjoy the music, and then the album goes ahead with ‘Black Bart’. That was pretty much the idea I had behind it.
In general, I think your songs are very much like metal anthems. It’s easy for people to understand and sing along with the lyrics and things like that, and it’s very catchy. Writing metal anthems is just something that happens, right? You cannot really plan it like that, can you?
You never really can tell, specially with a song like ‘By The Blood In Your Heart’. It’s a very funny story. On a winter night, I was just going out with the dogs and I had the idea for the chorus of that song. I don’t know why, it just appeared in my head and I was singing it along the whole way through, not to forget it. I didn’t forget it because I was writing it down and it just ended up as the chorus of this song. I felt like it’s pretty much a kind of a big stadium song because everybody can sing along with it. But I don’t think you can really plan for that. If you get an idea like that, you have to figure out if it’s something the fans can sing along with. A song like ‘By The Blood In Your Heart’ you can sing along with even if you’re totally drunk. It’s such a natural melody. The idea for doing the bagpipes at the end of the song came because the song so Irish in its way. I really like that kind of music, country and all that sort of stuff. So it just became a great part of the album. When I try to write a song, I always think about people singing along with it when you play it live. Sometimes there’s some tracks you can’t sing along really well with, and you can’t think about that when you write it. But you just have to find the right words and melodies if your aim is to make people sing along.
That’s great insight. OK, so the album is out now. After this, what is the band working on and planning?
Well, we just got about 20 different show offers so far, we’ll be open to more in the next couple of weeks, and during the next two months we’ll go through them and decide what we can do. So we plan to play some festivals in the next year and doing some event shows around Christmas 2017 in Germany with two other bands together. This is the plan so far, but everything can change if the album does really well, which it looks like it is so far, and may be we can do some more bigger shows on our own. But we have to wait and see what happens.
Related link: Running Wild ‘Rapid Foray’ album review
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