Updated: 05/25/03

Rolf Munkes is best known as the longtime guitarist for the European heavy metal band Vanize. One of his other projects is Empire, a collaboration of sorts featuring Anders Johansson from Hammerfall on drums and Tony Martin formerly of Black Sabbath on lead vocals. Based out of Germany, the music of Empire has a grand, classic rock feel that permeates throughout. Trading Souls is the second Empire release featuring Munkes’ masterful guitar playing and incredible musicianship all the way around. Here is an email interview I recently conducted with Mr. Munkes…

What made you decide to start up Empire and how did the project compare to your other band Vanize?
I did a solo album in 2000 (No More Obscurity) and had half of the album with vocals and the other without. I like the instrumental stuff but do like more the vocal tunes. So I decided to make a whole album with vocals. I asked Lance King, who did a cover version of Message In A Bottle on that album to sing most of the tunes while Mark Boals did two guest songs on Hypnotica. They both agreed, so Empire was born. That was around January 2001. Unfortunately we split with singer Peter from Vanize and are now working together with a new singer from Sweden on new tunes. We a currently recording demo stuff for labels. Very promising material!

If you had to describe your music to someone who has never heard it before, what would you say?
It's Hard Rock in the style of 80's with an up to date sound played by some of the most experienced musicians around! And in the style of the eighties means not with "grey hairs"!!!!

What participation did Anders Johansson from Hammerfall have in the project and how did you meet? What do you think of Hammerfall overall?
Oh, he played already on my first Lion Music release No More Obscurity. He did a guest appearance and played an outstanding drum solo together with Gerald. Then he also played two songs on the first Empire release Hypnotica and so I asked him to play two tunes for Trading Souls. I mean, he is a killer drummer. It's an honour to have him with us. I saw Hammerfall two times live. I like some of their tunes and must say that they have a great show.

What did you think of Tony Martin's work in Black Sabbath and what made you use him in Empire as opposed to the previous vocalists?
Tony's work is outstanding and amazing. Also the way he works is absolutely pro. It was a big experience with him in the studio and we both did enjoy it very much. I think that it was a good decision to have him as the main singer for Trading Souls. My intention was to have only one singer with Trading Souls other than on Hypnotica where we had two singers. I wanted to bring a Band feeling to it, which is much easier with only one singer.

What did Stefan Kaufmann of UDO contribute to the recording process?
Most of the stuff was recorded here in my studio. We only did the mixing in Stefan's studio. And there he added some great arrangement ideas to the tunes as well as a great sound. It was really cool to work with him again. We also mixed Hypnotica there in 2001.

Has Empire ever played live and is there any chance of bringing your project here to the States?
Melodic Rock has not the biggest sales numbers these days. So we have to wait til the first reactions come in. Then we are able to decide what we'll do. But I hope to go on tour with that CD.

What exactly is a Teenage Deadhead?
A young girl, in this case, who says she loves a man but the man realized that this girl does not love him. So he "cries all the tears that he can cry" til he forgets her! Simple, but that's the way it goes.

Where did you get the title Trading Souls and is there any deep meaning behind the title?
It's a part from the second song Pay Back Time which goes like this: "Pentagram the devils sign in the circle of destruction evil Lords are trading souls" Some of the lyrics are more or less something about how we treat our own lives and the ones of our friends/neighbours. (Shouldn't we not take more care about that?) And then Mhoriz (the guy who made the artwork) came up with that cool idea where these humans fly over the landscape. We found that very interesting and chose this as our title.

Are there any other projects you are currently working with at the moment?
I'm recording stuff for two new projects right now. One is my new band Majesty (German Metal Group) which I joined a few months ago. We are currently in the studio recording stuff for the third album, which will be out at the end of this year on Massacre Records. And also working on recordings with my old band mates from Vanize with a new singer from Sweden. We are looking for a label with that new material. Besides that I'm also doing some festivals with Majesty.

If Britney Spears asked you to abandon your current projects and join her band as their lead guitarist for a year, what would you do?
That's a cool question Ken! I guess I would think about it some days (that makes the price grow) and then say - yes. But if Cher would ask me, I would do it for free!

Do you have any messages for fans or people who might be interested in checking out your music?
Great Hard Rock Tunes, very melodic, played by some of the world’s finest musicians. Hope you'll love the album, while we really enjoyed recording it! I'm looking forward to seeing you on Tour somewhere!!!! Thanks for the interview and stay Heavy.


ROLF MUNKES: His Official Information Page!
LION MUSIC: The Record Label for Empire!
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!

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