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Sodom how to celebrate 25 years and why deer is made of meat, too
Sodom is one of the few bands that are still authentic after 25 years and do not care if they fit into genre definitions. Keep the spirit is the credo of leader Tom. This attitude appeals and convinces, therefore STALKER invited him for a chat. Here you can read now why CNN inevitably inspires new songs, how Thrash Metal is connected with the SPD (Social Democrat Party), why 1 ― hours on stage are enough and why another career as hunter seems considerable and why Metal turned from revolution to mainstream. A summary of future plans and dreams of a band, and much more... those not quite so serious photos to this interview were made at TUSKA 2006, and after that I had some sore laughing muscles...
About the first half of the Sodom career so far and also about the recent SODOM DVD "Lords Of Depravity Part I"...
The DVD is something special. Everything is authentic and also the structure surprised me Iīve never seen it like this.
Have you watched everything?
Yes, almost. I just cut the concerts a bit. But I really enjoyed them (youīll find the review here).
Well, there you go...
There are also some delicate scenes on the DVD like those with ex-members that other bands surely would have left out...
We kept that in with full intention. You mean Chris Witchhunter?
Yes, that was very important for us. The whole thing should be also a little bit provocative and not an act. It was important that every ex-musician can make his point. Naturally we could have cut it to appear more positive, but we really wanted authentic statements. Thatīs clear with Witchhunter, or Andy Brings who said that he kept hating me even ten years later. Our producer really wanted to keep it as authentic as possible, this is why he also interviewed some former work colleagues from Zeche. First I didnīt want it, but some colleagues heard it in the grapevine, and we also interviewed them. Therefore itīs real and not an act like this Metallica film where they fake an argument. I found it way too unnatural. But our DVD is absolutely real!
You are on good terms with Andy again. Do you have more contact with Witchhunter now, too?
No, no no no no! The biggest problem with this DVD was to get Witchhunter in front of the camera. I had to call a thousand times. We had a school anniversary but simply no more contact. Witchhunter blocked off ten times and said I donīt do this, then we agreed on the price and then he did it. But right after that contact broke off completely. Witchhunter is also sick and not always available. Everyone of course knows that he is an alcoholic and contacting him is difficult he has quite different problems. But naturally I am glad that we got him for the DVD. The producer also called Witchhunter because he has drummed for Sodom for 10 years and had been an important part of the bandīs history. I am very glad, although itīs just at rehearsals and lacking recording quality, that Witchhunter is in front of the camera and is part of the thing. Stuff that he said afterwards Remove the camera or I break it could have been cut because it makes him look bad, but finally this was his attitude back then. He still has not recovered from being kicked out of the band. He would never forgive me, and in the meantime he is on a level that you cannot talk sense with him.
I think that if he had been active in another band the whole thing had not played up in this way...
Well, of course. He had also a band called Witchhunter, but he could not find a singer, and then also the guitarist quit. He also did not start it professionally. He shouldnīt have gone into hiding after that but found another band and go on. Andy Brings had done it and Frank Blackfire. And Frank played some years with Kreator. Most just went on, and Witchhunterīs alcoholism didnīt get better after I kicked him out of the band.
When you kicked outAndy Brings back then, have you ever thought that youīll ever be on such good terms again, and that he would be producing your Cds?
Naturally you have to settle things. Andy is very active in the scene and plays with his band, and so our ways crossed many times. It would be stupid not to talk with each other. Andy said himself that I had reasons to kick him out, and that he wasnīt quite that innocent. Now from a distance he sees it that way, too. Back then he was much younger than I was, and now he got cooler and things work out much better again. We are not best friends but we can work together. SODOM is my band and I would like to promote it as a complete work of art, without consideration of everybodyīs needs. This business is tough...
When we did the STALKER Anniversary Party and Andy played with his Traceelords, with your surprise appearance on stage during the Motörhead cover, Andy was really glad.
You can get on with me easily, Iīm quite cool. Even Witchhunter could get on with me. Now I can get on with everybody quite easily, except Witchhunger. OK I have not kicked out the other guys. Michael Hoffmann or Frank Petzer have left of their own free will because they couldnīt work with Witchhunter. We all are in steady contact, and almost all of the guys appear on the DVD. Well, in the case of Witchhunter and Atomic Stein I said If you donīt want and cause trouble youīre not included and that I will explain in interviews why they donīt appear. I put everyone who could be found and who is still alive on the DVD. Aggressor is missing, our first guitarist, and Strahli, who I could not find, and Destructor, who died back then. I think all the important milestones of the band are included...
Is the old scene in Essen still existing? Back then you were the only one from Gelsenkirchen, all the others came from Essen.
No,, thereīs no longer a scene like in the 80s, and also no more real metal fans. Sometimes we meet each other at concerts, of course but itīs not a real scene, that is gone. Back then we met regularly in Metal bars like Mephisto but that all has ceased to exist. In a certain age you no longer meet regularly in bars. I try to organise a sort of anniversary meeting every year, where we meet at Zeche Carl, or now and then when we play in the area I try to invite them all, too.
25 years Sodom and it just goes on and on. That calls for a huge party. What are your anniversary plans...
Next year itīs your anniversary. Wouldnīt it be great to get all ex members on stage, too?
Absolutely! I just donīt know how to do it yet but I dream of having a show in chronological order, playing two songs of every album in the original line up. Could be a problem with Chris Witchhunter, because he cannot play that anymore. Andy Brings wonīt have any problems, Frank Blackfire still plays guitar.
But it would not matter if Chris Witchhunter did some drumming blunders.
No, thatīs right. That would be exciting. Well, letīs see. Weīll surely play at Wacken and plan to announce that weīve been existing for 25 years and perhaps try to get some ex members on stage, some that are still in good shape. If we play some song from Tapping the Vein we put Andy on stage, too. Thatīs quite possible. And if we really, just as I want to, play everything chronologically, Witchhunter has to be on drums. That could be a problem. Iīll ask if he dares to do it but I doubt it. Still we want to have a very special 25 years show. If it will be Wacken or somewhere else is not sure yet. Must be something suitable...
Where did you play your very first gig? Is the location still existing?
Oh that was 1984 in Frankfurt, but itīs no longer existing, as well as the youth centre Altenessen. Back then there were hundreds of youth centres. Where we still could do something could be clubs like Zeche Karl or Zeche Bochum where we have played quite often already. We could do a kind of SODOM party with ex-musicians and Meet&Greet with all the guys lining up for a foto and having a drink together. Thatīs what we could do, sure, that doesnīt have to be at Wacken. We could have a slide show but with Frank Blackfire present, Hoffmann... everything could be organised. Regarding the setlist we could do an hour normal show and then one hour old classics in original line up. Something like that I have to do, thatīs for sure.
About the next Sodom DVD Lords of Depravity Part II that might be out next year and its planning...
The new DVD is just about to come out...
Yes! We already interviewed Bernemann and Bobby for the second DVD. The history was without those two. In the second part we continue, all authentic. The second DVDīs history starts 96?97 when I met Bernemann and Bobby and extends up to today. There itīs not just concerts and intervies but also what happens in between and all around. Sometimes terrible things happen. You donīt get your money, or the troubles we had in Peru... if you have a cameraman with you, itīs important...
Did you have one?
Yes, sure. We have tons of material already. What we still need for the second DVD is a concert with some new songs and some other classic. A real cool show. This is the purpose of this DVD thing, to present music. I hope that we finish it soon and have it out in summer next year. It would be cool to have this DVD out for wrapping up our 25 anniversary. Perhaps we can still film our anniversary show and add as free bonus. But those things I still have to check with the label.
Regarding the next SODOM album, you push that aside and rather focus on the DVD now?
Yes, in my opinion. I think we should release the DVD as soon as possible, just to have the history until now completed. Then focusing on the 25th anniversary and celebrate until the end of the year. Then concerts, tour, or release a back catalogue it depends what the label has in mind and then a new album. But this is just my opinion, and some decisions have to be made. When Iīve finished the DVD my head will be free again. I have to do one thing after the other before I can write new songs.
About the new album SODOM, wars and why Angela Merkel is no muse...
This is quite astonishing for me, because some of the songs on SODOM deal with September 11 and other current topics. The recent political situation e.g. in Israel and Palestine I assumed you have a storage of lyrics...
Yes, but, look, this conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on forever. Nothing new. Sure, youīre right, now itīs heading to a peak and itīs worse than ever. Afghanistan and so on... German and French troops try to mediate... whatīs quite interesting, too, is that nobody uses the word war anymore. Itīs just conflict or controversy. Everything is extremely played down. If I need a new song I just watch CNN or the news.
Your lyrics are very often misunderstood, arenīt they?
Not any longer but before it was quite horrible. We were labelled fascist when the issue was Bombenhagel. Total bullshit of course! But amazingly more records can be sold with such an image than with a clean image. You better read between the lines of my lyrics. Another reproach concerns war glorification which is bullshit, too. Sure, there is a lot of martial stuff on the covers, but itīs logical, we play Thrash Metal. Everybody knows that, too, and who doesnīt believe that can take a look at my SPD membership card!
Thematically I am influenced by current topics, and that is a restriction for songwriters like me. Writing about the past is more of restriction. I cannot write anything about World War II, and if I go back further itīs another Metal genre like Blind Guardian or the like. This war technology, the potential of war is something I am interested in. This primal force. Wars nowadays are created and directed by some computer. This war man-versus-man doesnīt really exist any longer.
Have you done military or civil service?
I did military service.
If you were asked as reservist to go to Afghanistan and re-establish order, would you go?
No, I wouldnīt do it. Iīm not interested in getting shot. I did my service for the country and had no problem with weapons, but going to war.... no no too dangerous for me. Iīd be afraid, to be honest, and Iīm too old for that. Americans and Israeli people have to. In Israel also the women, and some of them really want it. They have a totally different mentality and another relationship to an AK 47. They have no problem to die for their fatherland. Still I had a problem dying for another land. If Germany was at war now that would surely be no question, but Afghanistan, Lebanon or something... then I would refuse and rather be in jail as deserter. Well, but if you are a lifer you have to do it. Therefore better think about it before.
So what do you think about the US and their government? You had a quite successful tour there. In your lyrics you deal with their hypocrisy...
I donīt want to attack Bush personally, but there are many things he didnīt do right. Thatīs also the view of Americans I talked to. For example it was known that a plot was planned for September 11, and strangely the secret service is said to have kept quiet. You never know about the network . I mean, Bush did business with Bin Laden. That irritates the Americans also. When we played shows there I didnīt leave out any slogan, but Axis Of Evil is quite explicit. Clinton I found much more moderate and better for the US. But the people there also donīt support Bush any more. They would prefer to change as soon as possible...
But they re-elected him...
Yes, but all the vote counting wasnīt correct. I mean what happened there. I have never met an American who criticised our lyrics. When we played in Los Angeles many were of Mexican descent and were not concerned with that. They say they are Metalfans and go to see a SODOM gig thatīs it. Most of them donīt read the lyrics...
Would Angela Merkel also inspire you for a song?
No, not at all! I mean our economics are recovering, but next year taxes are coming and everything will go down again. You can make jokes about her, but no way I write lyrics about her. German politics are not interesting enough for that. Naturally you can address things like the high rate of poverty in Germany, but otherwise the country isnīt interesting at the moment for my lyrics...
The cover of SODOM surprised me. Not inside, where itīs typical for you, but the cardboard case doesnīt look like you. Itīs so clear and simple. I mean, I like it, but itīs not like SODOM...
Inside itīs the original cover, but everybody thought itīs crap. I was the only one who liked it. We agreed to a compromise and did their cover idea as case and my cover inside, and also as poster. The case looks boring but the band found mine crap, the label thought itīs crap so there I was... I thought it was a good shirt motive and looks the style of SODOM covers. But the compromise is OK. Now the album was also released on vinyl, and I insisted on that, and there it has my cover. Vinyl is the only way how small record stores can still survive. Specialisation and vinyl. But vinyl is nothing to earn a lot of money, because only a few still have a record player.
Thr band and their fans...
You just mentioned compromises. How does it work in the band? You are the leader but Bernemann and Bobby also have something to say, havenīt they?
Of course! This is why we have been together for such along time. But finally there are always decisions that I make all alone. I like to discuss everything but after 25 years I just know whatīs best for the band, and so I have to make decisions on my own.
What really impressed me at this yearīs TUSKA Open Air was that, one day before your performance, you talked with some of your fans and asked them what they would like to hear and partly, you really played those songs.
You can do that to a certain extent. Of course not everything is possible but everything weīre able to play... of course I canīt demand from Bernemann that he for example can do Obsessed By Cruelty although this is a song that they like to hear. I canīt force anyone and I donīt want to either. I want to play songs that we all three back so that the right SODOM spirit can come across. Practically, you have to cover a song from 1986 anew, with a new band and thatīs often difficult. You canīt just play it because you have to play it better than it was played back then but we also discuss about what we could do now. Unfortunately you canīt do much in one or one and a half hour and we canīt play longer then one and a half hour.
The last time we played one and a half hour I only thought: Iīm done! Seriously!
How old are you guys anyway?
Iīm 43; Bobby is I think 40 and Bernemann is also 43. But you know, in one and a half hour everything is said anyway.
Tell me something about your fans! I noticed that you know most of them by name, recognize them and even remember where you met them and where they are from. Iīve never heard anything like that. Respect!
Okay, sometimes there are some fans who come to me and say: Hey Tom! Do you remember 1988 Zeche Bochum? Then I say, Of course, I remember! Leather jacket? but if something was that long ago I of course have to pass. But all die hard fans who come to many concerts and festivals, those I know of course. Itīs very important to me and this is how I show my respect towards them by remembering them. When I drink a beer with them before or after the show and they are as happy as pigs in shit then I have a blast. I became friends with some who really are at all festivals and many shows.
I donīt remember exactly where it was but one of my STALKERs has told me that you during a gig was it the Rock Hard Festival?- invited the crowd to a beer to some place. Is that true and how was it?
Oh dear, I canīt really remember where it was but I do that a lot. Mostly thereīs an aftershow party somewhere. We had it in Los Angeles; we had it in New York, too. Well, whatīs inviting I only say where we go after the show. Oftentimes you donīt have a chance to spend some time with the fans directly before or after the show and then you just have to organize something. Other bands go with a few selected ones, at most, for some drinks to the backstage area and then quickly to the hotel. In America it was still so that after the show the lights went on and everyone was thrown out because the cleaners came. I criticised that there, too. Thatīs a big difference between shows in Germany and those in the States. In Germany, for example in the club Zeche, you can have a beer with the fans at the bar long after the showīs over.
The business past and present...
When you look at the music industry / the music business today and at the times when you started, what do you notice?
In the meantime the business became quite big and quite commercial. Back then there were no big festivals like there are today... Wacken had about 70,000 people this year! Thatīs too much, way too much. A buddy of mine said to me that Wacken is not about the music anymore but to get shit-faced and lie wasted in your own piss. Thatīs how he saw it. People go to festivals and if thereīs one or the other band that they like then itīs good and if not then itīs not that bad either. Back then metal was still something very special, something different and only meant for a few people. Metal was some kind of revolution. That it became so commercial this is not really to my liking. Today even grandmas come to a concert. When I was in vocational school I was the only one who listened to metal at all and I liked that! The others listened to new wave and neue deutsche welle I listened to metal. Metallers were something special and today many just dress up like that. Many bands that are called metal are no real metal at all. Nowadays we, of course, also profit from that and play many festivals but we still try to keep our spirit alive. Bobby is a big Children of Bodom fan but thatīs no metal and has nothing to do with the philosophy that we had back then. Thereīs no big metal festival in the States apart from the Ozz-fest. I told them that we have 20, 30 big metal festivals. They thought itīs awesome but I personally think thatīs too much. Also the new releases... I used to be a metal expert and today I hardly know any of the new bands because they spring up like mushrooms.
And old bands come back to life and are put as reunion back onstage...
Yeah, I have my opinions about that, too. Itīs not always the best of ideas. For example, VENOM or CELTIC FROST are good and right. They now played many festivals and are in a good position but if they still play somewhere next year, I donīt know. Of course, you can still make some money with it but I like continuity. Making good records and good DVDs, playing here and there, go on tour... SODOM will always be SODOM and as long as we three can still play for one and a half hour, we will play. We play in the present line-up for 10 years now, thatīs longer than many a marriage. Pension is no issue anyway because I recently received my pension approval certificate and if I would go on pension right now I would get a little bit more than 600 euros... thatīs of course not enough for living. As a musician you have to keep on doing as long as you can and I still have a hell lot of fun!
Tom Angelripper, the family man...
Speaking of marriage, how does your family cope with SODOM? Your wife probably met you like that, right?
Exactly and well, other kids go to vacation for two weeks or so but we donīt have anything like that but everyone is used to that. As a musician youīre a freelancer and thus have to see that the cash comes in. I canīt say that I do nothing for three weeks because I wonīt get anything in those three weeks then. But they know it and when they tell in school that their dad is a musician then even the teachers are interested. Of course, itīs not a very regular life because there are times when Iīm at home all the time but then there are times when Iīm away for a while but it balances itself out.
Could you imagine to take your kids on tour?
Yes, when they are older for sure. Maybe not on a real tour but when thereīs a festival or something like that sure. But my son is nine and too young for that. My daughter is 13 but she doesnīt really care about metal and rather listens to the top 20 all the time. In that age I was completely fascinated by the music and there was nothing else for me. At their school there are some metal fans, even one with a SODOM shirt, but she has other interests and I donīt really want to convert my kids to metal.
When your son comes to you in 10 years and says, Daddy, I want to form a band!, how would you react?
Why not? I would support it. I mean, itīs so much harder to form a band today then it was back then. Now there is for example the KILLERPILZE thatīs a whole new band, they all are just boys. The drummer is only 12 years old but heīs good! His parents are trained musicians and they support him. But my son has to want it himself otherwise I would never go and buy him a drum kit because it could be that I buy one for him, he plays it for a week in the basement and then he doesnīt like it anymore. And a musicianīs life is not always so nice. I mean, when we go on tour and itīs in South America; donīt think that we will actually see something of the country. They have different sanitary facilities, the food tastes weird, then you have the runs for a few weeks and then you go to McDonalds again because thereīs nothing else thatīs half of the tour and thatīs not nice. But thatīs my life!
About other bands...
What about other bands? For example SLAYER, have you bought the new album?
I have it burnt here.
I wouldnīt buy it in the shop. I havenīt bought any CDs for myself for a long time now. They are just too expensive. Back then I bought every album because it was still my hobby but when the CDs came up I somehow stopped. So when the new SLAYER CD is somewhere for 9,99 euros then I take it but not for 20 euros. But, of course, I obtain them all. I have a friend and he sucks everything from the net. Itīs not great but I donīt mind.
What do you think about the new SLAYER?
Itīs good but not as good as the old stuff. I think the same from many bands although Slayer are still one of the best bands for me and I rather listen to Slayer then to anything else because I still know what I get. Iīm also a little bit disappointed of the new MOTÖRHEAD because itīs almost the exact the same thing like what they did 10 years ago. It doesnīt have the flair anymore that Ace Of Spades had. I donīt really follow MOTÖRHEAD anymore. I have all albums, all CDs that I get from SPV but it doesnīt knock me off my feet anymore. Slayer, however, still kick ass and play heavy, aggressive metal and thatīs how it should be. The new album from CELTIC FROST I found too lengthy and didnīt like it too much.
What did you think of CELTIC FROST live?
I found them quite tight but I had wished for more older stuff. I liked them better back then and I think they didnīt quite fulfill the headliner status that they had this year.
Is there new material from ONKEL TOM?
No, I had to put this aside for a while because I just have too much to do with SODOM. I donīt play with the Dezperadoz anymore and thus SODOM is the only thing at the moment. I would like to make another ONKEL TOM album after the next SODOM DVD and CD but right now we donīt have a record deal. If we again record everything on our own, produce it ourselves and finance it then we will get a deal again but now it looks like as if Alex is quite busy with his Dezperadoz and we canīt get together that often anymore. I think a lot about this problem right now because I would like to have some musicians here in this area with whom I could do something regularly.
The hunter in men and what STALKER has to do with it...
Is hunting still your most important hobby besides the music?
No, itīs my passion!
Correct me but there are no woods in Gelsenkirchen, or are there?
No, no, I have to drive a little bit further away, about 120 km. The forest in which I hunt is in the south of Cologne, in the Oberberg area. I shot a buck there just last week. Otherwise I hunt wild boars and deers...
That means that you will have venison the next weeks?
No, we froze it. My kids donīt like eating venison that much; they still see the deer. When I skinned the buck in the garage and my son came in, he said, Hey, it looks like meat under the skin! I said That is meat! He even assisted me then but they donīt like to eat it. Itīs my hobby and even as a child I wanted to get my shooting license. I did my final test in 1992 because I couldnīt do it earlier my driverīs license was gone and then you arenīt allowed to do it.
Did you drive too fast?
Yes and I had a few beers too much. Then I had to wait for five years until everything was deleted from the files and then I could finally do my test and get the license. I have my peace in the woods and thatīs what I need as a counterbalance. Too bad that you donīt get any money for that
You could sell filets of deer.
If I would earn that much money with it like I do with the music then I would do that and music as a hobby. Other people watch vast amounts of movies. Our producer in Berlin, Ronnie, he watches every evening DVDs and movies. He had to force me into a movie theater for my last film. The movie was called SAW and was actually quite good but I donīt like movies that much. Iīm no fan of books either. It has nothing to do with reality; I rather read a hunting magazine.
When we were still printed many newsagents put us to hunting magazines at the beginning because they only saw the deer and the target. Only after three issues we were put to the music magazines.
Yes, Stalker is also a hunting term. It means slow approach and of course today it is a term for people who follow others. Of course itīs a great name for a magazine, I already wanted to tell you this before.
Thanks a lot! Sometimes it can also cause some misunderstanding. Björk had this stalker problem once and when we tried to get an interview with her there was some tumult.
I can imagine that. Like What? Now they even have their own magazine?
To put you to hunting magazines is also quite weird. I like that!
This weekend I will go hunting again. But donīt think that I only go there to shoot because you maybe only shoot something in one out of 10 hunting trips. The main things are the companionability and the nature. We maybe want to document that on our next DVD but they donīt keep still and then we donīt see a single animal! And Bobby couldnīt hurt a fly. Not so long ago I slapped a fly on the table and then Bobby said: Did you really have to do this? I said then Before it sits on my breakfast, yes, it had to be. He is very sensitive and so we donīt talk about hunting at all. He doesnīt want to hear it.
December tour with Finntroll (you can find the dates in our tour date section)...
Is there something more that you want to say?
We go on tour with Finntroll in December and after that to South America. The next year will be as oppulent as this year, I hope. The demand for us is good, the album goes well too and we gained some new fans again. I want to say thank you to all SODOM fans among the STALKER readers!
I will deliver that message.
Change of roles: Tom now interviews Samira...
Tom: Youīre not printed anymore, right? Samira: No, we just didnīt have enough paid advertisements. The business in Germany doesnīt know the word fairness in many sectors and STALKER was and still is an independent title. The sales were super and everything else went great as well. You can only cover the printing costs with the sales but the retailers, the distribution and the employed crew wants to be paid too; plus all the other expenses... and at some point it didnīt work anymore. My financial means to close the budget gaps were spent after the June/July 2005 issue and the few paid adverts in that issue were not yet paid or not in time. And well, I didnīt obtain another credit. I was happy that I had warned the crew early enough and I could still pay them.
Tom: Thatīs always the problem, I know that too. I have this a lot that when a bill hadnīt been paid just on time then I couldīve packed my stuff. What did you do then? Samira: There was this one company from the States, Dragonfly. They wanted to buy us and then leave us as we were but with a lot of Dragonfly adverts. That wouldīve been the solution! We were already at the notary and kept the STALKER online alive to not lose the readers but then in January 2006 there was a change at Dragonfly and they had a new chief executive who didnīt want to know anything about that deal and withdrew from the pre-contract. That was it, I was broke and the prospect to print again was over. We then discussed with the crew and decided to go on as an online magazine. Meanwhile we have 100,000 visitors (unique visitors) per month from all over the world. Thereīs a lot of work for no money but nevertheless almost all from the old crew are still here. Tom: See! At least you donīt let yourself be influenced by labels and others and did stay independent. Then it is the main thing to just keep on going.