Unleashed in the East Berlin!
Name: Sven Rappoldt (Rob 2)
Location: Berlin (Germany)
Occupation: Owner of Concert Office and Rock Café Halford in Berlin
When did you first start listening to Judas Priest?
What does the music of Judas Priest mean to You?
A life dream and a great model for future metal bands.
How many times have you seen Priest live and, of those, what was the best experience?
I’ve saw them three times in a row on the Painkiller tour as well as on the reunion tour in 2004 at the Berlin Arena. The best experience I had was at the ice hall in Berlin, back in 1992, as there were many Priest fans from East Berlin who had been waiting such a long time to see the metal gods live on stage. The atmosphere was just indescribable.
What is your favourite Priest album and song?
’British Steel’ and ‘The Green Manalishi’
You own a nice Halford & Priest themed bar in Berlin. How did you get the idea about Rock Café Halford?
During the times of the German Democratic Republic I was a musician in a band called ‘Metall’, mainly playing songs of Saxon and Judas Priest. At the end of the 80s, a friend of mine, Norbert Schmidt (ex-singer of the GDR Band ‘Formel 1’), showed me the first Judas Priest videos. Since then, it was my biggest dream to see a Priest live show – but, obviously, there was the problem with the Berlin wall.
Finally, after the opening of the wall, there was this very special moment when Judas Priest played in the ice hall in Berlin during their Painkiller tour. After this show, I was absolutely sure that there couldn’t be anything better than this.
In 1992, I set up my own business and opened my first discotheque in East Berlin. Beforehand, I had to ask through a friend, if I was allowed to use the artist’s name. Two years later, in 1994, I started to work as a promoter and concert organizer, as well. After Rob Halford left Priest, I met him at a (Fight) press conference in Hamburg. Then there was this big moment, when K.K. Downing and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens had a press conference (for the Jugulator album) as well as a signing session for fans at the Rockfactory Halford-Berlin. In 2002, I was responsible for Rob’s press conference, promoting his solo album ‘Resurrection’, as well as the concert at the Columbia Hall.
How often are there tourists coming from abroad to see this bar?
Because of the general links on my website and due to recommendations on www.metaltravelguide.com, fans from all over the world visit the Halford-Bar, especially during the German rock/metal festival season.
Furthermore, when bands play in Berlin, they usually come to the Halford-Bar for an aftershow-party or as ‘normal’ guests.
The craziest people are the ones from Spain. They’re interested in all kinds of metal and are in a good mood all the time. They know the lyrics of every single song played in the bar, they sing along every song and drink all the different cocktails up and down.
Just recently the head of merchandising of Megadeth visited the Halford-Bar. He was so happy to see me that I got invited for the Megadeth show the other day. By the way, he knows K.K. quite well – his name is Mike Ridley and he’s got a Priest tattoo on his right arm. After the tour with Megadeth, he’ll be on the road with Kiss.
This bar is like a Judas Priest museum. Where did you get all this stuff?
I’ve started to collect items already in the 80s. I also buy some stuff via eBay.
Any special story behind this huge Rob sculpture?
For the 5 year anniversary of the Halford-Bar in 1997, I asked an artist in Berlin to create this sculpture. Afterwards, ‘Rob’ was placed at the side of the stage – and in the evening, when Gamma Ray played a gig, the sculpture was revealed in front of the fans.
I gave the artist all the pictures I had of Rob as well as the video of the Rock Pop in Concert (Germany) with Judas Priest, so he got an impression of Rob’s movements and outfit.
According to the calendar there are quite many release parties at Halford Cafe. Could you name some artists who have been there, and which were the most memorable moments?
Grave Digger, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Savatage, Lacrimosa, Beyond Fear, In Extremo, Tanzwut, Subway to Sally, Motörhead, Saxon, Ozzy, HammerFall, Gamma Ray, Helloween, Fight, Judas Priest, Halford, In Flames, Crematory, Metal Church, Rebellion, Rage, Benedictum, Kiss, Volkstrott, Megadeth, Metallica, Doro, Bruce Dickinson and maybe a 100 more.
The most memorable moments so far are:
-‘X-Factor’ album (Iron Maiden) with Dave Murray and Blaze:
At the entry of the club, both musicians handed out some X-Factor footballs to the fans.
Afterwards, the club was converted into a football arena by the fans.
-‘Jugulator’ album (Judas Priest) with K.K. and Tim Owens:
I really enjoyed the press conference, the signing session as well as taking pictures of K.K., Tim, my son and me, standing in front of the Painkiller wall inside my bar.
-‘Resurrection’ (Halford) with Rob
I remember the press conference very well, when media people mixed up Rob and me all the time.
-Rage promoting ‘Unity’ in 2002
Rage promoted their new album live and unplugged in front of around 500 fans – for free.
Earlier, you mentioned the Berlin Wall. How was the metal scene in GDR, back in those days?
There was a big metal scene as most of the local bands toured the GDR instead of their idols (Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Motörhead etc.). These groups played all the international hits of the original bands, of course, but had to respect the rule that 60 % of the songs on their setlists had to be composed by th GDR bands themselves. Furthermore, you had to have very good contacts to western countries to get the albums, magazines and videos you wanted to get. The clothes were usually either tailored after looking closely at pictures of the bands, or you had to know someone who could get clothes for you from Hungary. I got my first leather cap from a railway worker in exchange for two sausages. I felt very proud having such a cap, but things were very difficult under the GDR regime. The people of the infamous ‘Stasi’ spoke to me quite often and wanted to see my passport because of my leather clothing. For me, wearing leather pants, leather gloves, handcuffs, a leather jacket and a leather cap was quite usual, but they tried to forbid it. Fortunately, they did not have any chance as more and more fans started to dress up like this to make this kind of clothing more respectable.
Since 1986, the bands from the GDR were allowed to present their songs in English. Before 1986, it was impossible as all the lyrics had to be approved by the GDR broadcasting corporation first. They had a close look at the contents that might harm the GDR regime – and, obviously, they had to use the red pen quite often. That’s the reason why many bands tried to travel abroad, mostly to western Germany, before the end of the GDR. I had these thoughts as well, but as my wife was pregnant back then, I felt it was too risky.
As I already mentioned, since 1986, bands were not only allowed to write their lyrics in English, but were allowed to visit public youth tv shows as well. In 1987, me and my band ‘Metall’ (I was playing the bass guitar) had 3 tracks placed in the top 3, and the record label AMIGA produced our maxi LP ‘Speed up’. After the wall came down, the label shut down. A lot of small record companies made lots of money because of the closing down – and the theft of the original master tapes at the same time – by releasing samplers with former GDR bands on their own labels. Still today, lots of samplers, containing songs of former GDR metal bands are sold. Because of the end of the GDR broadcasting corporation all the legal rights were questioned and it resulted in a disaster for every single artist as they were robbed of their songs by this procedure. By the way, there is an interesting website (www.ostrock.de) which shows pictures and articles of many GDR bands.
How is the metal scene in Germany nowadays?
In my opinion, the metal scene in Germany is still one of the biggest, although, referring to the different styles, it often changes its direction from one year to another. One year, it’s the time of True Metal, the year after, the scene is more focussed on Death or Thrash Metal. Furthermore, there are the more experimental bands, who usually don’t survive for more than 2 years. Basically, the bands that live the longest are the ones that show character, stay true and stick to their style. A change of musical direction usually gets punished in Germany.
Any upcoming band you could recommend to our readers?
Metal Lore (Berlin), Benedictum (USA) and Fatal Embrace (Berlin).
In your bar there are many drinks named after bands. If you were asked to develop a Steel Mill drink, what would be the ingredients?
I would use pineapple juice, maracuja juice, vodka, peach liqueur, batida liqueur and grenadines (Vitamins are essential as it doesn’t work without).
…and the last one: your message to K.K. and the Steel Mill Staff?
Judas Priest and the Steel Mill team forever!