Roadwolf – Running with LightningSunday, 14th May 2023
Another entry in the classic heavy metal/ hard rock style, Austria’s Roadwolf possesses those requisite hooks, melodies, and raw power that we’ve come to know and love in this genre. Their second full-length Midnight Lightning infuses a mixture of European and American influences when names like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister, and others ruled the airwaves and packed arenas globally. We reached out to bassist Aigy and guitarist Valentin to discuss the new material, including the use of piano and saxophone to enhance specific tracks – video work, thoughts on the raw approach to the band’s live performances, hopes for mankind coming out of this pandemic, plus plenty of discussion regarding a mutual love of heavy metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Midnight Lightning is the second studio album for Roadwolf. How were the songwriting and recording sessions for this set of material – and where do you see the major differences (if any) between this record and your 2021 debut Unchain the Wolf?
Valentin: About songwriting. Some of the material for the songs, “Don’t Deliver Us From Evil”, “On the Run”, they are a couple of years old. We had the guitar riffs, the melodies, and the lyrics written for a long time, and finally had the chance to record them. “Midnight Lightning” for example, is a song that we were jamming in the rehearsal room, a Frankenstein of guitar riffs where we chose the best parts and put them together. “High Under Pressure” has a saxophone in it, it’s also a very old guitar riff, a former guitarist had the first idea of the riff like that. We took this idea and wrote this song.
About the differences between this record and the first one. I would say it’s much more diverse than the first one. I would also say the first album was diverse, but this one is much more different, different keys of music, different approaches of grooves and rhythms. And we have a ballad, we have piano also, much more diversity with the instruments even if it’s only the saxophone and piano. On the first record, we were more of a straight-ahead heavy metal band.
Aigy: What I would like to add to that is the first album, we had songs that were written ten years ago. The band was different back then, me and Mano our drummer, founded the band in 2004. You can hear on the first album things that happened a long time ago, we had a lot of time to write the songs. For the second album, we knew we had to just write a second album, let’s do this right now. A project that happened in a shorter period of time, so it feels more condensed in a way, more refined and more like one product. The first album felt like a lot of different time periods that came together into one album. With this album, we wanted to write this particular album. That is a big difference.
Dead Rhetoric: Was the writing process also different due to the pandemic situation – did you have to do more over the internet compared to jamming things out in rehearsals in person?
Aigy: We had the chance to meet up in person, and we were able to rehearse in person. The writing goes as follows – someone has an idea, and he takes that idea into the band – tells us about it. Valentin has a lot of cool guitar riffs, he throws it into the jam, we write some rhythm tracks for it and try to find a structure, define what the chorus will be, the verses. You can only do that when you are in person, four musicians in one room. I don’t see the possibility of doing this via Zoom, it wouldn’t work for us.
Dead Rhetoric: You shot a video for the opening track “On the Run”, directed by Anthony Jacobson of Perduabo Film. What was that video shoot like given the quick hitting cuts as he shot the band in performance mode?
Valentin: It was the second music video in our practice space, so we’ve decided we won’t do another video like this again. It’s always a mess afterwards to get things in a proper way to rehearse again. It was great, we have worked with Anthony Jacobson before – I think this is the fourth time. We work as a team quite well, we know each other quite well, it was done pretty fast. We had some special lights with the light technicians who are friends of ours. In the end the video looks like this – it’s something special about this performance video, as it’s a very classic sounding heavy metal track. It goes along well together, the approach of the video like this with the song sounding like this.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to have a vocalist like Frank in the band – his delivery and tone remind me of a mixture Dan McCafferty of Nazareth along with Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P.?
Aigy: That’s an interesting combination. For a long time, I was the singer of Roadwolf. If you watch the Wacken video from 2014, you saw me singing. There was a time when we felt that we needed a proper singer, to expand our music and expand the band. I was playing the bass in Frank’s old band, called Suckceed. He was the singer there, I played bass, and then the band quit in 2013. He was without a band for some years, I tried to lure him into Roadwolf, don’t you want to join us, as he was also into the classic stuff and Suckceed was more of a modern approach, Alter Bridge-type of rock thing. I always knew he was into Dio, W.A.S.P., Nazareth, big influences on him. We thought he was a natural fit, and in 2016 he finally decided to join us. It worked out quite well, I think.
Valentin: He’s a really good singer. The influences you mentioned, I think he reminds me much more of Ian Astbury of The Cult, Steve Lee from Gotthard, and also Frankie knows how to sound like Judas Priest – because everybody in the band loves Judas Priest. The whole world loves Judas Priest, and Frankie has a lot of variety. I’m really happy to work with him – when I have ideas and I ask him if he can sing like this band or that band, he knows exactly what I mean. He hits the bullseye.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover art come about – and do you believe it’s still as important to deliver quality cover art in the current marketplace as it was during the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s?
Valentin: I think artwork, especially in heavy metal, is really important. Because as far as I’ve heard, vinyl has had a huge comeback, it makes total sense to put a lot of effort into the artwork. We want good looking artwork, t-shirt designs, especially all the designs have to be good looking.
Aigy: Vinyl makes the difference here. The artwork is much, much bigger. You can really get all the details, a gatefold to open up the cover to get even more details, of little things going on. It’s more important than ever.
Dead Rhetoric: Drawing influences from the classic heavy metal brigade of the 70’s/80’s, what do the members of Roadwolf enjoy most regarding this style that has made such a strong impression on your own songwriting and outlook on the genre?
Valentin: I can start with my influences, but I can’t stop counting all the bands that I listen to. For me, Priest, Maiden, Accept, AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Queensrÿche, a lot of US melodic speed/power metal bands. I really love that style.
Aigy: For me it’s a bit different. I love progressive rock music; Rush is my all-time favorite band. I enjoy the European 70’s and 80’s hard rock bands, I am a big fan of UFO, Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake – and I mean the real Whitesnake from the 70’s and early 80’s. This is my kind of music. Every member of our band has a different direction, but there is always common ground. We go back to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden – but everyone has their niche.
Valentin: For our singer Frankie as an example, it’s always Kiss. He’s the biggest Kiss fan in all of Austria. Our drummer brings some punk attitude into the band with how he likes to play drums. His music tastes come from that angle which also might be interesting.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Roadwolf when it comes to live shows versus what people hear on the record? What have been some of the more memorable touring or festival experiences the band has had to date?
Valentin: I would describe us as a raw, rock band. If you compare our live shows to the music that we record, the recorded music is a full picture with all the colors and all the ideas that we are trying to record. A lot of additional guitars. Live we have to reduce it to one guitar, and sometimes you have to get rid of this solo and play it a different kind of way so the whole package works. I would say things are simpler and rawer in the end.
Wacken 2014, of course. Playing in front of thousands of people it’s an awesome feeling. The last tour we did in Spain was also an awesome experience, to go somewhere new. People already singing the songs, knowing the lyrics, waiting outside of venue, taking pictures – ‘you are the guitarist’! Wow, what a feeling.
Aigy: Nothing to add for me. Definitely Wacken – it’s the mecca of heavy metal, of course. You can feel it’s the mecca.
Valentin: A friend of ours did this first heavy metal cruise, a First Frost Cruise. It was a nice experience. We have played on top of a mountain for a festival. Good memories.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest obstacles or challenges facing Roadwolf at this point in your career?
Aigy: There are always obstacles. We have to talk about financial stuff because we are a small, local band. We have day jobs, and time off is always an obstacle. We like to figure out ways to overcome challenges, it works out. As you said, it’s an obstacle, but you can work around it. We have to have good time management, get enough time for rehearsals, enough time for recordings, and also sometimes it’s hard to have the free time for touring. Most local bands, small bands, will have that kind of obstacle. All in all, I think we are doing quite well.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about being a part of the Napalm Records roster, and their level of understanding/promotion when it comes to the work of Roadwolf?
Valentin: It was a surprise to have this opportunity to have a contract with Napalm Records. Because it’s a huge record label, it felt like a dream come true. On the other hand, it’s a lot of work that you have to do on a professional level. All these obstacles come in. With good management and teamwork, we are able to handle things. It’s also exciting to see the comments from our first two singles we’ve released so far. In one day, we had almost 20,000 views, which is super sweet. I hope a lot more people will discover this music – I’m very happy with our experience with Napalm Records so far.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are three of the most important metal albums that helped shape your views and outlook on the genre? And what is your favorite concert memory – purely attending a show as a fan, and what made that show so special/memorable to you?
Aigy: For the concert, it was my first concert ever, Iron Maiden in Vienna, Austria. It was in 2003, and it was amazing. Iron Maiden blew me away, and the cool thing was I caught the drumstick of Nicko McBrain, and at that moment I knew I had to do something with heavy metal in my life. This is a calling. About the albums, I speak for the both of us if I say Defenders of the Faith – Judas Priest. I think this is the album that inspired the band, and us as people. What else? Trying to find an album that really inspired all of us. Just like the Priest album.
Valentin: Screaming for Vengeance. I can only tell records that inspired me personally. Maybe Dio and Ozzy as a band, or W.A.S.P. is a huge influence on the band. Inside the Electric Circus, The Last in Line, Blizzard of Ozz. Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath with The Headless Cross. The Headless Children from W.A.S.P. – all these headless records, but no headless guitarist in our band (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the state of the world coming out of this global pandemic? What areas do you believe the leaders of the world need to focus on most to make things safer, stronger, and healthier for the general public?
Valentin: The first approach, with all countries, commit yourself to human rights and spend a lot of funds on public health, science, education. I think this is the most important thing, it would be progressive. If I had a wish, stop wasting money on nuclear warfare, invest it in something progressive. Mankind will profit from that; I am convinced of that.
Aigy: Maybe they should spend money on a new Live Aid, or a new US Festival, that would be great. That’s what we need! We need to reenergize with live music, live festivals, being together and having fun. Feel like a part of the community.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s in the works for Roadwolf over the next twelve months once the release is out?
Valentin: We will try to play a lot of live shows. Because this is why we actually play in a band, to play live. We will see what the next step will be with Napalm Records, if there’s this huge feedback from the people and the crowd, a chance of thinking about the new songs for a new record. We want to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Aigy: Someone already put up a reaction video to our latest single, “Supernatural”, and it was just amazing enjoyment watching him react. When you watch that, you realize this is why you do this, why you spend so much time doing (the music). You are doing things that other people enjoy. This is a very big thing. Gigging, gigging, we have to gig as much as possible. Which is not easy post-pandemic, a lot of the slots are full. Bands were booked for 2020, rebooked for 2021 and 2022. It’s tough, we will book some nice shows, and then we are good to go.