May 2003
interview by Ian C Stewart

German guitar god Rolf Munkes is a busy guy, playing in multiple bands, like Empire, Vanize, Majesty, in addition to his own solo recordings.

Is there anything you're feeling particularly mouthy about at the moment?
No, not now.

Who does what in your band?
Neil Murray plays bass, Tony Martin sings, Don Airey plays keyboard, Gerald Kloos plays drums and I play guitar and write the songs.

How do your songs come to be?
I usually write the songs on guitar.Then I record a bunch of ideas and after a while I get back to it and listen. With this distance, it's easier to hear what is good and what's bad. Then I start to arrange the stuff in the computer and discuss the results with Gerald. After that we start the recording sessions.

Who were your early musical influences?
I grew up with Deep Purple, Gary Moore, Kiss, AC/DC, Rainbow, Steve Morse.

What made you decide to start making music of your own?
I love playing live, writing music, playing guitar and being my own boss.

How is the current label situation working out?
I'm signed with the Finnish label Lion Music. They do some excellent work for me. It's a pleasure to work with them. I've released three CDs so far with them.

Where are your biggest markets?
Germany and Japan.

What's the biggest audience you've played to?
4000 people.

What's your favorite place to play live?
Any place where fans have fun and listen.

Anything funny ever happen with any of your bands?
In the late 80s, I had a local band with Gerald and others. We played lots of instrumental stuff and not so many covers. It was hard to get gigs. So we tried everything to play live. We had the idea to play new years eve. Okay, nothing unusual, you might say, but we played outside on the top of Gerald's garage. It was minus five degrees or so and his garage was on top of a mountain so we thought the whole town would be able to hear us. The instruments were so out of tune that it must have been horrible. After fifteen minutes the police came. But they liked what we did, so they decided to stay and watch the little gig. I don't know if that is funny but it's a cold real story.

How do you feel about the state of music in general?
For rock music, it's getting harder, I think. The markets shrink and the amount of bands is very high. And there are some good bands out there. Most of the big labels don't want to invest in bands and build them up. That is a mistake in my opinion. I think they forget about their responsibility. They have a big influence over what people hear. So if they release low quality, people will like low qualtiy. Isn't that dangerous?

Are there any bands you're excited by?
I saw Masterplan, they got some good stuff.

How has the internet affected you?
It's a great place to be if you know what to do with it. For me, it was and still is a great help. The fact that I do most of the conversations by email saves me a lot of money. I could send music from one country to another in seconds with low costs. And get an opinion right after that.

Are there any music people you'd like to collaborate with?
Brian May, Sting and Gary Moore.

What's next for you, musically speaking?
I will start composing songs for the third Empire CD in a few weeks and I'm very curious how the Trading Souls album will hit the market. I'm also working with Vanize on new material. Right now we are looking for a new singer. We'll come up with a new band name and some new cool tunes. Watch out for it.

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