Looking at the cover of your latest album, Victory, I was pleased to notice that this time you paid a close attention to the history of Russia. Why Russia, Rolf?
In the first place everything came around when I read three books about the last Russian Zar. There is also a song on the album called ďOne PeaceĒ which is also dedicated to Russia: this song is about Napoleon wars. I have been studying this stuff since the long time. If you look at the cover you can see that I also collect military stuff, this is the main collection I have because I am interested in history of Empyreal Russia. All the stuff from the photos come from my private collection and eighty percent are Russian.
Oh, and I wondered from what museum you took all these military merchandise!
No, this is my stuff, haha! I have been collecting this stuff for quite a long time, itís pretty much different. A lot of things were destroyed during the revolution so not that much stuff has left since then.
I guess itís an expensive hobby?
Yeah, itís pretty much expensive!
Where do you buy it?
Well, there are shops in Hamburg, which deal with that stuff. You can but these things there. But each time you have to be very fast to be the first one to buy it there, haha!
And have you ever been to Russia?
No, not before. I really want to go there. In summer we plan to do a lot of European festivals, and I do hope we will do some shows in the Eastern Europe as well.
So, talking about Russian history, the fate of the last Zar seems to be the most attractive for you, isnít it?
Yes, I am interested in the last Russian Zar and his family. And in the songs on the album I focused on his personal tragedy, not the revolution and the surroundings, but on his person itself. I focused on the stuff that was inside of him, because he was not born to be a Zar. He was born in the Zar family but he was not the guy to do it, you know what I mean? And he knew it from the start. He was not the guy to rule over Russian people. I was really interested to read about how he acted and what he wanted to do. How everything went wrong. This is a really interesting point. And when you collect that stuff you become interested in its history. You see, last century military stuff was an important part of life. People joined the army not just to fight with each other, but it was a part of the culture. Military especially in Russia has a very big influence on whole life. And I am in military uniform in the booklet not because I like wars, I have nothing to do with that, but because itís a tradition and a way of dressing, the way of looking like. It is a symbol of what people were influenced by.
The theme of war and great battles has been maintained by almost all the albums of RUNNING WILD. And now, at the end of the century, you finally proclaimed victory. Whose victory and over whom?
If you look at the lyrics on the album, youíll see that the victory stands for the fight between light and darkness, it goes like a red line through the album. If you look at the last three albums you can see that there is a fight between good and evil, from Rivalry when darkness and light fight each other to get points, through the Masquerade and to the Victory, where darkness seduce people to the evil side. But everything is over, everything is done and light wins. Nobody needs more evil, so the evil is erased. You can take it also on a personal level when there are good and bad sides inside of you fighting each other.
Well, I only hope that not all evil has been defeated and the future RUNNING WILD albums will reveal us new great battles of the good and the bad!
Yes! It is a concept album but it was never meant to be! When I was writing the lyrics to the album I figured out that I could see it as a three-piece trilogy, a three-piece statement. It was a straight line and it made sense. So, the trilogy came to an end, but it does not mean I will never write songs about it anymore!
A very fascinating fact about RUNNING WILD is that each time listening to your new albums we never find any dramatic changes. The melodies and the rhythms sound very alike. And still we like it, and it is exactly what we want and expect from your band. How would you explain that phenomenon?
First of all it is because I am the main songwriter in the band and I am also the producer. So, 90 percent of RUNNING WILD is me. Me is RUNNING WILD and I have a big influence on what the band stands for and all about. And I go straight ahead in one direction. That is what RUNNING WILD has always done. RUNNING WILD is a part of me and thatís why it goes one straight line. And I try to write songs from my heart, what I feel. Thatís why people like it. I just let it flow, I donít think much when I do music. People can catch it and feel it. They feel the mood of the songs. Thatís it.
Being familiar with Russian traditions, I can feel some very familiar melodies and moods that are so common for the Russians. Did you listen to Russian traditional music to represent that mood?
I didnít listen to it! I just tried, I just let if flow out of my mind. I just took my guitar and tried to make it sound Russian, you know? It took me some time to get into it, but I have been playing the guitar for many years so I can put my heart into the music.
The story that took place some years ago when you split up with the rest of the band was covered with all possible details by mass media. Still, it was contradictive and too emotional then. How could you explain that split now?
There were a lot of troubles in the band and I found out I could no longer continue with the rest of the guys. They wanted to influence my private life and I donít really know why. When we were off the studio preparing for the tour, there were other different things. I couldnít work with those guys anymore. I didnít know if the guys wanted music or if they wanted troubles! I didnít know what their intention was. So, I figured out it was impossible to go on with them.
I find it really ridiculous when the guys wanted to create a sort of RUNNING WILD clone without you (I am talking about their band X-WILD). Didnít they realize that you were the heart of the band?
It was a problem! The first time I heard the guys formed a band I thought it was a great idea. With their own style that could do what they wanted. In their eyes I did everything wrong. And they knew everything better. And they wanted to do everything different. But they did RUNNING WILD! They copied everything I did! So, it was a funny point in there. They did exactly the same what they considered to be wrong! But if you have an original who needs a copy?
How are things going on now with the present line-up?
Well, I normally send tapes to the musicians with the guitars and the drum computer on it and then they write their bass and drums lines and we discuss their ideas. There are also two songs on the last album written by our guitarist. So, you can see there is some influence on the band from other guys.
German bands are known for their so-called ďone-man-leadersĒ, who represent the band, write the greater part of all the material and make the decisions. RUNNING WILD, RAGE, BLIND GUARDIAN... Is it a German tradition?
No, haha! I donít think it is a tradition. But when I look back at our career I can see that when the band was rising, the musicians were getting lower. Their influence on the band was getting low because they stopped working for the band. They were really getting lazy. Every month they got the check, the money, they could live on it, go out having everything. It was enough for them. They stopped growing. Thatís why we had so many line-up changes. I have to put more into RUNNING WILD because the job has to be done, I have to write the songs, I have to prepare the live set. I have to deal with everything. So, afterwards, there is only one person working! Also some musicians had problems with drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol became much more important than music. And if you look at bands like SODOM or KREATOR - itís the same way. Those guys wanted more and more for doing nothing, wanted more money for doing less. That couldnít work.
Do you think money and the fame of RUNNING WILD spoiled the musicians? Did they have a ďstarĒ decease?
I think they had something to do with that. I think they had too much time and too much money. Too much possibilities to hang out and do nothing. Itís really a German problem.
But how do you manage to resist the temptation to do drugs and to hang out getting anything you want?
I donít have the time for that, haha! No, I think it has something to do with the character. I am not the guy who can be attracted by that. I have a lot of interests besides music. I have a lot of hobbies. And just remember the fight between light and darkness: the same thing is going on inside of each person. I like reading about history, I collect historical stuff. And I also like to listen to music, to listen to it like a fan. I like to go to nice restaurants to talk with friends. A like a lot of different things.
You have been playing music for quite a long already. Is there anything else you would like to achieve as a musician?
To release more records and to play bigger shows. And for sure to get on a higher level. So, I am waiting. If it happens - great, if it does not - I will not worry, I am already too long in this business. I can live from the music, so no problems.
While other bands try to earn money playing softer and softer you believe that you can attract new audience playing old good heavy metal. Am I right?
Would you like to point out any new bands playing metal these days?
Yeah, one band I really like, we had that band as a support act, is PRIMAL FEAR. Well, there is a lot of new stuff coming but I think young bands really miss personality. Young bands really try to be a copy of a band which is still there. I donít think it makes sense. Another problem is that record companies do not take time to let bands develop, to get on a higher position. They release two records and if they are not that good, you are off!
A prominent feature of RUNNING WILD songs is their catchy choruses. Do you have any secret for writing a hit?
No! I just write from my feelings, from my heart. I canít give you a receipt for writing a good song. Just donít listen what the trend says, listen to your heart. Do what you want to do.
Imagine that you have become a president of Germany, or better say Kantsler. What will be the first thing you do?
Oh, itís a hard question, haha! I will push the investigations about the corruption going on in Germany. I will force police to find out everything.
As you like Russian military that much, I would like to know your opinion about the Chechenian war...
I think violence canít be a solution to any political problem. After war there are always two losers. You can never be a real victor.
Who is the most prominent historical figure to your thinking?
Well, the most people nowadays say that Gorbachev is the most popular person of the century. I think he changed a lot. I could chose more people but itís pretty hard to say.