Jens Becker

Jens Becker – is there any other bassist between german heavy metal musicians, with such position? I don't think so! I always wanted to ask Jens for many things about his adventures with Running Wild and X-Wild. After we met once again here in Poland, where he played with his current band Grave Digger, we finally set an interview. Goshhh... I guess it wasn't easy for him to answer all of my questions, but well, he did it. Ladies and gentlemen: Jens Becker. The conquistador of the bass guitar!

Hello Jens! How are you these days? Some days ago you came back home after playing live show in Poland... How will you remember this concert, Warsaw and Polish Digger fans?

It was the first time for me to play live in Poland. Unfortunately we did not have the chance to see the Warsaw city. But we met a lot of friendly people there and this I will not forget.

Did you ever visit Poland before? I know that your first band - Running Wild, played over here in 1987, but I don't remember if you were already in the band, as you joined them exactly in 1987... Anwyay, how do you like Poland and Polish girls? As i know, one of your crazy fans kissed you before the show, any details? haha...

No,I never was in Poland before. Running Wild played here a few months before I joined the band. As I told before, I only saw the airport and the hotel. It is always nice to meet our fans, some are shy, some are crazy, this is the same thing worldwide. And I am a married man since 2 years now.

Ok. As I mentioned Running Wild - I hope you don't mind if I will ask few questions about them? How did you actually join them?

In 1987 my friend Stefan Schwarzmann told me that RW are looking for a new drummer and bass-player. We decided to try it. We both come from the south of Germany, so one day in July we drove to Hamburg for an audition and 2 weeks later we got a call from the management that we both got the job. This was my entry into the music business. I was very happy of course, I was 22 years old.

Did you play in any other band before Running Wild, or it was your first band?

No, of course I played in some local bands before. This was all in the city of Erlangen where I come from. And Stefan did the same thing. But we never played in the same band before.

You did with them the famous "Port Royal" LP, by many described as their best release ever. How do you remember the recording session, writing songs and so on?

I remember this time very well, because it was my first time in a professional band. Everything was new and exciting. We did a pré-production in Hamburg and then we did the real recordings in Sky Track Studios in Berlin. It was a very hot summer, we worked hard but we also had a lot of fun. And it was a big step for the band, too.

I always wanted to ask this question: what's "Uaschitschun"? Is this something connected to Indians?

Yes, it is an Indian word. I forgot the exact meaning, but I remember it had something to do with freedom and soul.

Do you know, that the beginning of "Conquistadores" played by you, is one of the most known and popular bass lines on heavy metal circle?

Yes,I know and this makes me really proud after all these years. Two months ago we played in Brazil and even there people get crazy about it. I was playing some songs with a Grave Digger-Cover-Band in a little club in Sao Paulo and many fans asked about RW. This will follow me for the rest of my life.

The next album with you was the "Death Or Glory"... Any special differences between this one and "Portal Royal" for you? Can you compare these 2 releases?

Well, for me "Death Or Glory" is the best RW-album ever and I am proud that I was an important part of it. This album took us even another step higher and the tour was the best I ever did in my life. Sold out everywhere we played in Europe.

Back then you used to wear pirate clothes on stage. Was it hard to move on stage weared like that? Do you still own any clothes from those times?

Yes, it was pretty hard sometimes. Especially in smaller places, when the heat was killing us even without these clothes. We also had a lot of pyro-show going on and these made the temperatures on stage incredible hot. I think I have some clothes from this time in the cellar, yes.

You guys did the "Death Or Glory Tour" video tape. I heard a rumours, that there were 2 versions of this video, recordd on 2 various live shows. Is that true?

No, it was all recorded in one show in Düsseldorf. But I really don't remember all details, it is so long ago.

Whose idea was to make the "Wild Animal" Mini-LP? Releases like that weren't usual thing back then...

I think it was Rolf's idea, but I really don't remember, maybe the record company also wanted it to profit from the "Death Or Glory" success.

You were still in the band during making "The First Years Of Piracy" LP... Was it for you more fun or job, to re-record the old Running Wild classics?

No, it was fun for me, definitely. Recording music is always fun for me. Music is my life.

The "Little Big Horn" single and "Blazon Stone" LP (still with you in the line up) were huge success. Do you think that those were the best selling albums, on which you played? Did you write all the bass lines yourself, or they were written by Rolf, as he was always credited as the composer?

Yes, they were even more successful than "Death Or Glory". It was amazing, it seemed that nothing could stop us. I always wrote the bass lines myself. Rolf composed the basic music, but he never told me what I should play on the bass.

Was it hard to work with Rolf? What kind of person is he? Are you guys still in touch? How do you think - why other members left back then? Right now, there is no other original member in the band except Rolf...

No, it was not hard to work with Rolf. Actually, he is a kind person, he just wants to have full control about the band. I don't have contact anymore.

How do you think, where Running Wild could be now, if the line up from "Blazon Stone" would record all the next albums? Did you hear next Running Wild releases, without you?

I think, RW could be one of the biggest Heavy Metal bands on this planet. I only heard some songs, never a whole album. I prefer concentrating on my own things.

How Axel Morgan joined the band back then? Was he your friend?

No, he was not my friend. AC knew him, because he was working for Paiste, which is a cymbal-manufacturer.

You left Running Wild in 1991, yes? How much time did it take to form X-Wild?

No, it was 1992. And I did not leave the band. I was fired. After Axel and Stefan were fired we formed X-Wild.

Whose idea was this band? Who was Jan Nemec, producer of the first album?

It was the idea of us three, because we just wanted to coninue making music, it was never planed to be a concurrent band for Rolf. Jan Nemec also produced "Death Or Glory" and "Blazon Stone".

Wasn't Noise Records interested in release of your album? How do you think, why didn't you get such success like Running Wild - songs from the first X-Wild album (and actually from each next X-Wild album) are simply fantastic!

Yes, many people liked the albums, but nobody bought it, haha. But this was the major problem of this band, Axel was forming his own record label and this was the biggest mistake. We should have tried to get a normal deal with a company like Noise. Then maybe everything would have been better.

On the "So What" album, you had a 3rd ex Running Wild member - Stefan Schwarzmann (mainly known from U.D.O.). Did he left Running Wild because of your and Axel's new band, or he left Rolf some time before it?

No, we did all this after Axel and Stefan were fired.

How did you get Frank Knight into the band?

He was a friend of Dane Kurth. Dane was the leader of the RW-Fan club at these times and she helped us to get in contact.

Are you often asked about X-Wild? By many heavy metal fans around the globe - incl. me, this is one of the very best bands ever, and sadly one of the most underrated...

Yes, a lot of people ask me about it.

What went wrong after the 3rd album, the powerful "Savageland"? Why X-Wild stopped its existence, what's the real story behind this sad end?

There is no story, we just didn't have any success. We lost the interest.

Are you still in touch with Axel Morgan, Frank Knight or other X-Wild members?

No, only Stefan I see sometimes.

Don't you think that this band was too good to be forgotten? Any chance for some official CD re-releases? Did you ever record any songs except those which we already know from the albums?

No, there is no chance for any activities. I prefer concentrating on the present, I don't like living in the past. It was a part of my life, but it is over.

What were you doing between leaving X-Wild and joining Grave Digger?

I was starting to play in an AC/DC-Cover-Band here in Hamburg. I still do this, whenever I have time.

Your first album with them was the "Knights Of The Cross"... How do you remember cooperation with those new guys, in comparision to your X-Wild and Running Wild years?

So far, this is the best time I ever had playing in a band. We are real friends and we have a lot of fun, whenever we meet. We all live in different parts of Germany, so we only meet when there is something going on. It is also good, because we don't have this Rockstar-dreams anymore. We are old enough to know what is going on and we just enjoy the success we have.

For a few years now, you are the stable Grave Digger member... How do you think, is the biggest success still before the band? I would say, that they're biggest album was "Tunes Of War" and later "Excalibur"... What's our opinion?

I don't think that we will become much bigger. We just try to keep the level we have and we are happy about every little step we do. But we are still hungry, of course. Every new álbum is still exciting about the reaction of the fans. Even after my 18 years in this business now.

Do you guys have a lot of fun together on tour, or you are more serious guys, which treat playing heavy metal as a job?

No,we really have a lot of fun when we are together. If it would become only a job, I would stop.

How Manni landed in Grave Digger? Was it hard for you to work with guitarist with totally different playing style?

Actually, I brought Manni into the band, because I know him for a very long time. Since 1990, when Rage was the support-band on the "Death Or Glory"-Tour. He is really the best guitar-player I ever worked with. I love his style, especially his solos are one of the best in the metal world.

Allright, enough about the bands... How your family reacted, when you said that you want to be a heavy metal musician? When you started to play bass, and who were your biggest inspirations?

I always had full support from my parents. They bought me my first bass-guitar when I was 13 years old. They never gave me problems to follow my way. My biggest inspirations were people like Steve Harris, Lemmy, Geddy Lee and Geezer Butler. But the band who made me do all this was AC/DC. When I first heard them, I knew this was what I wanted to do in my life.

Do you have wife, kids? Are they into heavy metal maybe? Do they listen to your music?

I am married to a Brazilian woman since 2 years and I have two children from a former relationship. It is a sad story because I don't have so much contact to them.

What kind of child were you? Playing footbal with kids, or spending the evenings with books maybe?

I was both. I was a football maniac and I was even playing in a very good team until I was 16 years old. But I also liked being alone and reading a lot. At the age of 16 I had to decide for football or music. You know what I did.

What bands did you listen back then, when you were a kid or teenager, and what are you listening now?

There were not so many bands when I was a kid. I loved AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Black Sabbath, the typical thing. I am sorry to say, but in this case I miss the old times. We got really excited when there was a new album of a band coming. In our days you get overwhelmed with music. It is nothing special anymore. All this MTV-Shit and every magazine has this free CDs with all this bands. And 80% of it is really not standable.

Do you think you still can be better as a musician? How much do you practice? Some young bass players which you could recommend?

I don't have the ambition to get better anymore. I am good enough for what I want to do. I am playing a lot, but I would not call it practice. It is just playing around and searching for new ideas. I don't know young bass players. Most of the time they don't play in a spectacular way. There is no new Steve Harris around, haha. He was really creating a new style.

Any suggestions to young heavy metal musicians? How to be such successful like... Jens Becker?

Well, just do what you want to do. Don't follow any idiots who want to tell you what is good or not. Follow your dreams...

Allright, if you wouldn't be yourself, but one of the guys you know Jens Becker. How would you desciribe him? Arrogant asshole, friendly and nice guy or...?

For sure I am not arrogant. Whenever I meet new people I treat them friendly and give respect to them. It doesn't matter who they are. Sometimes on tour it is a little bit difficult, because everybody wants to shake your hand, wants to touch you and all these things. Then I try to escape sometimes, but this has nothing to do with arrogance.

What are your other hobbies except music (of course if music is still your hobby)? Somethign connected to Indians' history maybe? Well, you know, the mighty Manitou...

Yes, I am an Indian fan since I was a child and I was reading a lot of books about their history. I don't know,why. Maybe I was one of them in a former life,who knows. haha. I also love making trips on my bicycle. Not a motor-bike, the real one.

I think that's all I wanted to ask for. I hope that this interview wasn't too boring for you? Thanks a lot for a great talk, and I hope there will be a chance to meet again in the nearest future! Are you planning to visit Poland maybe again in the nearest future?

Well, I have to thank you for your interest in me and my work. I also hope that we will meet again some day, probably on the tour for the next album.

Allright, last words for your Polish fans... Let the cannons spea... Sorry, let the Jens Becker speak!

OK, thanx very much to every Polish fan who supported me and my bands in the past. I know that there were some times in the past when it was not easy for you to get information about the metal world. But fortunately these times are over. It is a pity that in all these years I never had the chance to play live for you, but finally I succeeded. I hope it was not the last time, Never give up, cheers, JENS!

Interview done by Bart Gabriel in June 2005.