My conversation with Vali (the guitar player of Roadwolf) starts funny, because once he gets to know I was calling him from Bulgaria, he said an old children’s rhyme in my native language, which, having in mind the interview is with an Austrian band for an UK-based website, makes the world look small. Anyway, Roadwolf will be releasing their excellent second full length Midnight Lightning on May 19th, through Napalm Records and it’s an album which every self-respecting hard rock and metal fan should check out this year.
Hello, Vali! Nice to know we have a Bulgarian connection, haha. And you probably know that the artwork for one of your t-shirt designs was also done by a Bulgarian artist. So, great to talk to you for the first time. The second Roadwolf album Midnight Lighting is upon us, so are you satisfied with how it turned out?
-Oh, yes, we’ve had great response since it’s been released to the media. Everybody seems to like the music, the songs and the sound. The fans are also happy with the quality of the music videos. I’m really excited from the feedback so far to our work for the last year.
Roadwolf is walking a very interesting path between classic heavy metal and old school hard rock. Can you agree with me that the influence of Scorpions, UFO or Trance in Roadwolf’s music is greater than that of Accept and Helloween?
-Hmm, the influences are quite different. It’s a mixture of Priest and sometimes Saxon or Accept, but a lot of the guitar riffs I wrote are in a Judas Priest style or something similar. When I bring them to the studio, then our singer sings something different on top of it and then it starts to sound like W.A.S.P. Everything can happen and what I really like about being in this band is that we don’t try to sound like Maiden 1984, you know? This really small niche. Roadwolf aims to sound like heavy metal from the late Seventies to the late Eighties – everything in-between.
As the guitar player in the band, who was you biggest influence when you started playing the guitar?
-I started playing the guitar at 15 and AC/DC were basically the only thing you could watch on DVD, since there was no YouTube back then. I was impressed by this crazy guy, running around like a maniac and I decided I wanted a guitar and do something like that. After that, I was a big Maiden and Priest fan and right now, my biggest idols are Michael Schenker, Gary Moore and Randy Rhoads. One of the reasons is because they don’t have second guitarist in their bands, just brilliant songwriting and they knew how to carry a whole band and a whole song with just one guitar. I think this is pretty amazing and not common in the modern metal scene. Now we almost always have two guitar players and sometimes there are even three, which in my opinion is just too much. But this is just my humble opinion.
Recently, there are some great new bands coming out of Austria, like Roadwolf, Venator and Eisenhand, for example. What do you think was the reason for the Austrian scene to stay in the shade of Germany and Switzerland for so long?
-I really spent a lot of time thinking about it, because Germany had Scorpions in the Seventies and Switzerland had Krokus. We had some bands in Austria at the time but nobody seems to know them, because in Austria it’s all about Classical music. When you go to Vienna, it’s all about Mozart or the New Year’s Eve concert, the history of the Empire and all this lame-ass bullshit. Don’t get me wrong – all of this had great impact in music history, but it’s only this or German-language folk and traditional music that form the musical landscape here in Austria. Only this gets money and help from the state and also gets advertised. There’s no rock heritage in Austria which is a shame, because we’ve had brilliant musicians in this country but nobody recognized that. Falco, who was a pop singer, was the only one besides Classical music, who was big internationally.
Midnight Lighting is probably just a little bit more hard-rock oriented than the debut, with a more anthemic sound. Did you have in the back of your mind the idea to compose songs that would sound more accessible and with more sing-along choruses this time?
-We try to focus on catchy songs, which everybody can sing along to. This time the songs had to be done quickly, because after the first record we got signed to Napalm Records. The songs in the first record had been shaped over a ten-year period. Back then, we had two guitarists and we were able to do these Judas Priest tricks and now, since 2016, we only have one guitar. The new songs are more in the style of Gary Moore, at least we tried a more Ozzy Osbourne or Dio approach: it’s one guitar, one good singer, pounding drums and driving bass lines. Of course, we have a lot of guitar tracks in Midnight Lighting, but the basic songs will work with one guitar. That’s how we tried to write them.
I understand what you’re saying and I think you succeeded in that. There’s something really interesting you tried in one of the songs – the saxophone you added in High Under Pressure. Who came up with that idea?
-It was our singer. We thought High Under Pressure was a high-speed rock’n’roll song, similar to Turn It Loose from the first record – with the same fast but bluesy stuff. In that song we had a harp player and we thought well, we can use this saxophone player called Herbert Könighofer this time. He is a really well-known jazz saxophonist. He is a friend of our singer and when they were younger, Herbert was crazy enough to try to play Yngwie Malmsteen guitar licks on his saxophone. So he agreed to play a sax solo in the song and he played it straight away with no rehearsal at all. I think it sounds awesome because it’s not common in heavy metal. Some people may consider is as “not true” but I don’t care. I think it sounds cool and adds a special note to the whole record.
Yes, and it suits the song perfectly.
-Mission accomplished then!
I noticed that you offer some exclusive merchandise and pre-order bundles on your website. How important is it nowadays to offer and produce good looking and different merchandise and not only albums?
-We will see. For Roadwolf it’s important. Merchandise, vinyl and live performances are the three aspects of your work you can possibly make profit from or at least some kind of money that you can invest in something else. We pay a lot of things from our day jobs. Now, when we have a record deal with a big label like Napalm Records, we would like to lift up the band to the next level so that the band members don’t have to spent our private money for it. And because of this Covid pandemic, like so many other bands, we had no chance to perform live. After the release of the new album, maybe people will want to see us live and there will be gigs.
So, where can we see the band live this summer?
-That’s a good question, because the pandemic caused all of the coming festival lineups to be already booked since two years back and it’s really hard to be booked now. We’ve booked on our own the release show for the album on May 28th in Vienna as well as some other gigs in Germany.
Midnight Lightning will be out on May 19th and can be ordered from HERE