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Sodom - straight line, new album and a new drummer
Sodom´s 13th studio album, “In War and Pieces“ was released 19th November 2010. During the last 15 years and five studio albums the infernal trio was like a marriage and everything seemed happy. It was a bit like seeing an old couple getting divorced and asking “why now?!” It went a bit like this when I found out that they are moving on without their drummer, Bobby Schottkowski. A new percussionist, Markus “Makka” Freiwald was found quickly enough and Stalker would not be Stalker if we didn´t interrogate. Why they broke up, who the new guy is and interesting aspects about the new album “In War and Pieces” is what Tom Angelripper told us in the interview.
On the outside, the relationship between Tom, Bernemann and Bobby seemed to be all good. Tom was the impulsive and exploring one, Bernemann the level-headed and Bobby the joker, but since the end of November Bobby is out of the band. Why?
There´s not much you can say. It wasn´t about the music, but some other problems, which we can´t go too near to. Bobby made the decision and Bernemann and I accepted it. Although we never were really close buddies and never spent private time together, I regret that he left. I mean he was there for almost 15 years and he was always reliable and he was able to cope with me for that long. That what happened now, just after the new album is out and just before the tour… I also get a lot of mails from fans, who say that it´s a shame what happened with Bobby. I can´t change anything. In the end, one can´t force anyone to stay. Nothing would come out if it and no-one would benefit from it. He should be happy and I whish him all the best. He himself said that he wanted a clean break-up. We are bound to bump into one another some day and have a beer together. We will see how that will work out later. This kind of a thing is always a setback. I know that from before. Back then everything seemed to be well on the outside, but there was always more to it. There is always a bit of friction in a band. This is the way it is: You can separate the musical life and the private life, or not.
How did you find your new drummer, Makka? He was a session drummer and apart from Despair, he was in no other band as a permanent member, is that correct?
He hasn´t been lately very active, but he played in Despair in the end of the 90´s as well as in Voodoo Cult when Dave Lombardo left. Then he was in Kreator when Jülle left and played on tour. That was the end of the 90´s. Other than that, he has played in cover bands. People say that he is the best drummer running around in the Ruhr-area. He comes from Dortmund and I know him for quite a while already. He played in Onkel Tom a few times too.
Tell me about Makka, what kind of a guy is he?
Oh, he is really a calm guy, but as a drummer he´s nuts. There were already comments on Facebook because he has short hair and he´s a head shorter than us. But this is just on the outside. Makka is a metalhead and the main thing is that he can musically impress people and he really impressed me. Makka was already referred to as the second Dave Lombardo. Musically he is top-notch. He is also athletic and this is important in playing drums. The really good drummers are normally very athletic and in good condition. You know Bernemann and I –us old farts- we really need a kick in the ass. We are already almost hitting the 50´s and now that there´s someone pushing us forward, really hitting the spot when it comes to playing music and knows how to play the songs –this can really do us some good. Bernemann is on holiday now, but Makka already built the ground works for himself and knows the new songs. He learns really fast, I´ll give him that. He´s the kind of guy that comes back from work sits himself into the rehearsal room and practices. I have no doubts there and I´m looking forward to the first rehearsals when Bernemann is back. I just hope that the fans will accept him the way he is. Of course it is weird for the fans when such a line-up is torn apart after so many years and it can be that there´s someone, who says “You can kiss my ass, I´m not going to the concert anymore.” But it´s not because I´m an asshole. I never threw anyone out of the band without a good reason. There was always a reason. Project Sodom as a whole is important for me.
Is he now as a session drummer for you or a permanent member of the band?
Oh, I can´t say that yet. Of course I´m hoping for a permanent member. But we have to see how it´s working first. This cruise-ship-party, “70,000 Tons of Metal,” in January is the first show we are playing with him and then we have some time to really get to know each other; we´ll see how it works. We are happy that the USA-show and the tour were saved. The rest is yet to be seen. He has a family and a job, too. Bernemann and I have families, but everything has to be balanced out and this is not always easy.
So there are no changes to the tour dates?
If all goes wrong, it´s not our fault. We will be fit and ready and we want to go on tour. Definitely! We are still working on the support act. It´s not yet 100% sure of who it´s going to be. You can´t just take your favourite one along these days. The business has changed there are factors like the same record label, same management and the same booking agency, which carry a big weight. Of course what we want to do is also have a local band in every show. It´s really important for me to develop the local scene a bit. I think that we are going to get a lot of bands contacting us from all of the places. Then we want to do a preselecting and raffle the remaining ones. I don´t like this favouritism. I don´t want that. It´s going to be released a bit before Christmas on the homepage and announced on Facebook and so on. The bands can sign up there.
Is there something the bands should keep in mind when applying?
If possible, don´t send CDs, just a link to the homepage or to their MySpace, so that one can hear them out. Or you can send a few MP3s and a bit of info. Then we are doing a reselection. Of course it has to fit with us. I mean in Bochum alone I know a whole lot of bands, who would love to play with us. Of course then it will be randomly chosen; I will show the slip of paper with the name of the winning band, as well as the other slips of paper with those, who did not win –on camera, just to show that there´s no mucking about. If some friends or acquaintances come to ask us if we could take this band or that –of course we won´t! This is very important for me. We never had this kind of a chance. Lemmy never said anything like “let Sodom play!” or “let´s take a smaller band with us”; it just never happened. I know how badly the bands want to play for the half an hour. That´s why it´s so important for me.
Your new album, „In War and Pieces“ came out 19th November and went off like a grenade. Your voice sounds even more like breaking glass and much more clear than normal. For me, the album was instrumentally like a wild ride back to the roots of Sodom, just more modern. Is there an influence from your new producer, Waldemar Sorychta? How was the production?
I think it´s cool that people have so different opinions of the album. A lot of people think that there is nothing to do with the old-school Sodom sound. I think that there could be a bit of something from “Agent Orange.” As far as my voice goes, you are right. Waldemar was really having me practice. I had to frequently sing the same verse ten times before he was satisfied. I never had that before and I was sometimes really angry, as sometimes the voice just faded. But we always found a way and it definitely was worth it. It was important for me that the album gets a really good sound and because of this, we decided not to go into a studio, but to a real producer and to record in a rehearsal studio. It was really good to have someone, who doesn´t just say what is good, but also says when it doesn´t work. Bobby recommended Waldemar and we got talking in the Rock Hard-festival. I don´t want to say that he was a fourth band member, but he brought in great ideas and he was indispensable for the album.
A new version from Sodom´s mascot, Knarrenheinz, is on the cover of “In War and Pieces.” After almost 30 years of band history, there was a song dedicated for him. How did the cover come about and what is the “Knarrenheinz song about
The cover, as well as the booklet was done by Eliran Kantor. He orientated himself a bit with “Agent Orange” and “Persecution Mania.” You see Knarrenheinz coming from the ground with painfully gaping hands into a total chaos of war. Eliran really hit it spot on with a mixture of traditional drawing and Photoshop. No-one does it without Photoshop these days. The song “Knarrenheinz” developed by chance in the rehearsal room. We were working on a song that had no lyrics yet and I spontaneously sang “Knarrenheinz.” The others thought it was great and we just thought that he deserved it and it could only be sung in German. In the song I tell his story and what he had experienced in the covers in the course of time.
Will there be a continuation to the song “Knarrenheinz?”
Nothing is planned, but as the song developed spontaneously, I can´t leave out the possibility that his story will go on.
What is the song “In War and Pieces” about?
In my texts it´s always about a lyrical ignition about what really sickens me. When German soldiers are killed in Afghanistan or suicide bombers going off in a market, the thing with North and South Korea. It´s also about social injustice. I cannot complain myself, but I know lots of people, who have to be on the Dole because they closed the coal mines. These are the things that need to be worked on.
As you say, you write to yourself in your texts and the frustrations and complain about the calamity of this world. Where do you stand when it comes to demonstrations? For instance Stuttgart 21 and the protests against climate change and atomic energy?
People, who protest and show civil courage are doing it right. What was going on is Stuttgart was a really big thing. And it should be so too. On accounts of lack of time alone, I don´t partake in demonstrations and I know that I can change these kinds of things only through my music, but one can always go out and scream out one´s opinion.
In the tour of “The Big Four” as well as in the DVD, there is Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth and in the end, they all play “Am I Evil.” What´s up with the German “Big Three?”
The combination on Kreator, Destruction and Sodom is nothing new any more and I want to do something like that again, but it´s not that easy as we are all under different labels and management. The coordination and planning is really complicated. But I´d definitely do it. But this still needs to be thought through and we want to work on it sometime. But if we all want to do it, then we are going to do it! Just the timing and organisation have to work out.
Which cover would you choose?
Maybe something from Venom. The other two (bands) have to choose with us of course, but it would be nice if it was something like “One Thousand Days of Sodom.” Something from the first album.
If it was “The Big Four”, who would be there too?
If it had to be another band, it would be Tankard as it would fit the best.
Your label SPV had to file for bankruptcy and has to concentrate on smaller projects. Is that good for the bands that stayed?
Definitely! Like all others, we thought of changing labels as our contracts would count for nothing with this bankruptcy. I spoke then with Olli Hahn (notice from editor: Product manager in SPV). The people who screwed up were out and it would be handled by the administrators of the bankruptcy. SPV really wanted to hold on to us. We decided to have no doubts and stayed with a new contract as well as new concept. I have no regrets that we stayed, none at all. Because a lot of big bands and smaller ones left, we get a lot more attention.
What´s happening on the 30th birthday of Sodom?
On the 25th birthday we had an old musician from Sodom playing with us on stage at Wacken. That was really great, but it won´t be the same. I don´t know if were going to do something like that again. Another DVD doesn´t make sense since we have already done everything again. The record company will probably bring out something. Maybe a special release or a “best of…” or something like that. I can only say that it will be something of our standard. What is sure is that the tour starts in February and then in the summer there will be the festivals. In the beginning of 2011 the new Onkel Tom album will be released. The first in ten years.
Do you know that you are the Christmas gift to the Stalker readers?
SODOM is touring on February and you have the chance to become the support act in your region! Here are the tour dates:
04.02.11 (B) VOSSELAAR • Biebob
05.02.11 (NL) EINDHOVEN • Dynamo
06.02.11 (UK) LONDON • Underworld
07.02.11 (D) SAARBRUECKEN • Garage
09.02.11 (CH) PRATTELN • Z7
10.02.11 (I) MAILAND • Live Club
11.02.11 (A) VIENNA • Szene
12.02.11 (SLO) MARIBOR • Stuk
13.02.11 (H) BUDAPEST • Diesel
15.02.11 (D) ASCHAFFENBURG • Colos Saal
16.02.11 (D) HAMBURG • Markthalle
17.02.11 (D) BOCHUM • Zeche
18.02.11 (D) ERFURT • Centrum
19.02.11 (D) HERFORD • X
20.02.11 (D) LUDWIGSBURG • Rockfabrik