Urban interviewed guitar hero Rolf Munkes from the band EMPIRE...

U - Hello Rolf! The average hardrock fan is maybe not 'that' familiar with your work and history. Can you start with telling us a little bit about your background. Who is Rolf Munkes anyway?

RM - "Rolf Munkes is a 36 year old musician". I started to be a pro musician back in 1991, played in cover bands and gave guitar lessons. In 1999 I started to build my own studio and recorded my first CD (No more obscurity) with big help of Gerald, my drummer. We both worked then together on the first Empire CD in 2001 called Hypnotica and now on the following second CD called Trading Souls. Besides that I'm the guitarist in Majesty (german true Metal Band), since the beginning of this year. We are right now working on a third CD and play some Festivals this summer. ¨

U - And when not playing guitar or otherwise music, your main hobby's are??? [football? beer? :-)]

RM - Family.

U - Good answer! I'm not sure if "Family" is a" Hobby" though [:-)]. How come you decided to name your band project "Empire" then?

RM - That's when I was in Minesota in 2001 recording vocals with Lance. We were sitting together and were (drinking eh... sorry) thinking about a name for that project. We had some several ideas and came about Empire. We both liked that and decided to take it.

U - Are you pleased with the outcome of your new CD, "Trading Souls"?

RM - Absolutely!! Each of the musician gave an enormous input and a high, creative performance to it. I'm really happy with it.

U - The album was mixed by Stefan Kaufmann (ex-Accept, UDO). Do you guys go long back or did someone recommend him for the job?

RM - When I played with Vanize we had some contact with him because they already recorded their two CD's in his studio. So it was pretty easy for me to make things clear with him.

U - My favorite track from the album is "Teenage Deadhead". A very unusual title I must say, can you give us the story behind the song?

RM - It's about a broken relationship and the way the guy is seeing the past and handling and thinking about the situation right now.

U - Maybe you could go through the rest of the tracklist for us and tell us something about each track?

RM - Sure!

One In A Million
A love song with a great Riff. It has a cool groove too (Thank Neil) he is playing a hell of Bass here!

Pay Back Time
This is a kind of an "anti-war song" I guess unfortunately it'll always fits in history. Some great Choir arrangements by Tony. They provide a superb sound/atmosphere to the song. One of my favorite tracks!

Big World, Little Man
Seeing it with the eyes of an Indian. Tony had the idea for that. Everyone should take more care of his and his neighbour life. "We should treat our lifes better, that's the sense of it. Trivial but important.

Something about my thoughts on God. Hey and I pretty often talk to "him" these days. I mean I'm not sure if he exists but I speak to someone. But mostly without getting an answer!!! That's the problem. I'm a guy who always asks for reasons. Kind of "Why is it not allowed to belch after meals"? It's so damned good! Serious now. Why do women in most of the religions have no chance to be a priest. Answer: "It has always been that way". That's the answer I "love" most!!!!!!

Perfect Singularity
Sometimes it feels good to be alone? That's the question. I love playing the WAH! (I know, most guitarists do). The idea for the intro came as the last thing to the song.

Wherever You Go
That's the evil one! At least one evil song per CD - this is my little rule! Because I love the evil ones. One of the first Riffs I had for this CD.

Did You Ever Love Me
That's my fav. I love that tune very much. And it is also the fav of Don. I really love Ballads. There will be a day when I make a CD only with Ballads. Should I? For Trading Souls I wrote three Ballads and one didn't make it on the CD.

Comin' Home
Like on the first album I wanted to do a Rock'n Roll kind of tune too. BTW I enjoy listening to the rhytm guitar playing of ACDC. Wow, cool Riffs, played tight and clever combined with the other guitar from..... What's his name?

U - Yngwie Malmsteen!! Nah, it's the Young brothers (Angus & Malcolm). Power vocalist Tony Martin (ex-Black Sabbath), sings like a small God on this CD. Where did you hook up with him? Excellent choice by the way!!!

RM - Thanks. I wanted to have a European singer this time and Tony was on top of the list. It was one of these days when I heard Sabbaths "Headless Cross". He sings so amazing on that. After listening to that CD you do not have another choice!!!! Call Tony or make an instrumental album (HAHA).

U - You must be pleased with the whole line-up? Neither Don Airey, Neil Murray or Anders Johansson, aren't excetelly what I'd call lousy musicians.

RM - Yes I' m pleased with that Line up. I would call it a "Dream Team". They all are great musicians. And working with them was amazing and superb too. Hey and it was a big fun to work with them.

U - I noticed that you've written all the songs (both music & lyrics), together with Martin and drummer Gerald Kloss. How does that work anyway? Who brings in what, into the whole writing process?

RM - I wrote the basics of all tunes and both of them added then stuff to it when it came to the recordings.

U - Are there any plans of taking this CD on tour??? or would you say that "Empire" is mostly a studio project?

RM - I would love to take this CD on Tour. We just have to see how the CD is selling. It isn't easy to go on Tour with Hard Rock these days. But it's getting better I think.

U - Is it easy to work with your label, LionMusic? Do you feel any pressure from Lasse, or do you have the artistic freedom, to do whatever you like with your music?

RM - They didn't want to hear any demo stuff for the second Empire. They just signed it. They let me decide on all the things. Cover, lyrics, title, musicians... Absolutely no pressure, it's great to work with them!

U - Your label boss (Lars Eric Mattsson) is a pretty decent guitar player too :-)

RM - He is a hell of a guitarist. Yeah his playing is very cool. Have you heard the new CD with former BOP's/Empire's Lance King. Very good stuff!!!!

U - Yeah, the guitarplaying is great as usual!!! But i found the songmaterial to be a bit weaker than before. Speaking of guitarplayers, can you find any new, interesting, players out there today? Or do you mostly look back to "past" heroes?

RM - I wish I could look to someone new but there aren't too much out there at this time. Whether they "shred" to much or they can't play at all. I would look for a guitarist who can play very well but integrates his playing in the band.

U - So, what's your opinion about the whole "hardrock" scene today? Can you find anything interesting from the Nu-Metal genre?

RM - The nu metal scene is not touching me very much. The singers sound all like the one from "Creed", the guitars are all downtuned and sound the same and there are no musicians out there which play so good that it's interesting for me to give them a listen. There are some good tunes here and there but all in all it's not my cup of tea. When I buy me a CD I follow one idea: There must be at least one musician on that CD who plays his instrument more than average. Otherwise I find it not very satisfying and fair to spend money for them.

U - Thanks for everything! If there's anything you'd like to say, add or promote. Please do:

RM - Check out the new Empire CD "Trading Souls". A classical Hard Rock album with plenty of great, powerful tunes played by some of the finest musicians around!!!

Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
(c)2003 RockUnited.Com
Thanks to: Lasse @ Lion Music