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Minions! We were honored to interview the legendary Tom Angelripper of Sodom. In this 1-hour and 20-minutes-long interview, we discussed the new Sodom release, the trip to Vietnam, Agent Orange, Persecution Mania, and more! We started the interview with the latest Sodom release – Forty Years of at War:
“I’ve got a lot of reviews so far. And people like the tracklist, you know…because, when we choose one song, we chose one song from each album, you know…And we don’t want to choose the hit singles. We were looking more for underrated songs, songs we never played live or we never played in the studio or in rehearsal room…And that was really fun because we spent a lot of time listening to all the albums. With the whole the band sitting in the rehearsal room, listening to Obsessed by Cruelty complete! And then, the decision was really made because on each album there were so many good songs that you can cover, you can play…But it was really funny, especially when we go back to the first record – In the Sign of Evil, Obsessed by Cruelty…A couple of songs they were not always in timing, and out of tune sometimes…But we wanted to cover it one by one, you know…Playing more accurate…You know, the drummer played the Witchhunter style but more accurate, but being in timing if possibe…It was really fun. Right now, we rehearsed all the songs, we are able to put them in the setlist for the upcoming shows, which is really interesting.”
Then, I asked Tom whether he was working on a new album or Lords of Depravity Part III:
“We don’t think about Lords of Depravity Part III because the story is told. The first one, Lords of Depravity Part I was very interesting because of different lineups, the beginning of Sodom’s history. I am thinking about doing a kind of tour documentary, you know. Maybe with interviews, recording some shows. But when we came up with the idea for recording the old songs, my idea was recording the live album…but the last two years, we couldn’t find a proper show for recording something because of Corona. I am always looking for special places for recording a live album. But we are still working on a new material for the new album.”
When asked how many songs they have for the new album, Tom said: We have three. I can tell you, this will be the heaviest Sodom album ever! So what we gonna do…I don’t know when it’s gonna be released, maybe next year or 2024…Because I want to work it out without any pressure. It’s very important. When the songs are finished, everything is fixed, you know, we can talk to a record company to get an option to release. That’s also the business. But yes, we are always active. During the corona times, we had more time for writing songs and recording an album. That was the only positive in these times. But Genesis XIX was a wonderful album because we spent more time recording it.
Regarding the possible Big Teutonic Four tour ever coming into place Tom Angelripper said: No..I don’t…I think there’s just big one nowadays. We played Mexico metal fest last month with the Big Four. It was: Kreator, Destruction, Tankard, Sodom...Also Hellhammer played, Grave Digger played...But I didn’t talk to Mille of Kreator on this concert because he came to the show and after the show he went back to the hotel. I spent more time with Schmier and Gerre who are still my friends. But I think it’s very easy to get them if you are a concert promoter and you book all four bands. But planning a tour or touring with this linuep, that could be really difficult because of different record companies, booking agencies, management…They all follow their own interests. I talked to Schmier and Mille years ago. I talked with them about not touring, because you’re touring, you are at the studio…We would have to find time…Maybe just one weekend where we could do a bigger show in this country or that country, whenever we have time, you know… And this package is good for 6 or 7000 people. Not just because Kreator plays, but because the Big Four plays. That is what the fans want to see. I don’t think so that there is really an option to get this to happen in my opinion…If you have a festival and there is a promoter who’s gonna book all the four bands, you got the Big Four! That is not the same when we would do a big four tour, we could share a stage together, maybe doing a session after the show, being together for the photo sessions, interviews…It seems impossible. You know, my bags are packed all the time. Whenever they want, I go.
Then, we talked about Frank Blackfire, the new lineup and the legendary Chris Witchhunter (RIP). I think Chris Witchhunter created completely his own style. And that’s what Tony Merkel is really interested in. He always was a big Witchhunter fan, not because Withchunter was so accurate, he was not a precision drummer. He was a drummer like Philthy of Motorhead. Sometimes very chaotic but that’s what people really enjoy. Tony tried to combine more accurate drumming with the Witchhunter’s style, Witchhunter’s spirit. That’s very hard to do but he tries it all the time. He was a big Witchhunter fan. Witchhunter, he got a lot of problems with alcohol abuse. That has also reflected on the drumming when he played live shows. That was really sad. But Tony tried to keep Witchhunter’s spirint and magic alive.
Tom recalled his partner in crime Witchhunter: “Witchhunter was always funny. He was my best firend. He was a really funny guy. But the more he abused alcohol, that got more in a tragic way. When we recorded the Final Sign of Evil, that was really hard to do. Really hard to work with him. Because this was the end of his alcoholic career. Because he knew he was going to die, when we recorded this album. That was really sad, you know. There was not so much fun working with him. I remember, in the 90s and in the 80s, he was a really cool guy, really funny guy. We were laughing all the time. But he was getting more and more problems with this alcohol abuse. I drink my beers but I know when to stop, and Withchunter was somebody who never knows to stop. He even, straight before the show, he was drinking. That is impossible nowadays. “
After that, Tom explained the concept behind Sodom’s mascot – Knarrenheinz that debuted on the 1987 Persecution Mania album. Right after, we talked about the meaning of the most brutal Sodom song ever – “Nuclear Winter”:
“I think the title Nuclear Winter...something, what happens then when we get...maybe this will happen one day if you get atomic wars. And what happens after all this.. The only thing that’s left is nuclear winter. Nobody survived. The nature is completely destroyed. Life needs millions of years to comeback. Maybe insects will survive. But men, or deers, or whatever is in the world or in the woods would die. That is a really bad scenario. That’s really apocalyptic. He also explained the “nuclear sword of Damocles” taken from Kennedy’s speech on nuclear disarmament: Yeah, the nuclear sword of Damocles. It’s the end of everything. This is dictated by God maybe. But that’s another story. But I always try to write lyrics in more of a fantasy way but also based on facts, without a political opinion. Who is a bad guy in the war, who is the good guy in the war…Nobody is! I think, in this world, we are all bad guys. The way we live and the way we do everything. We are bad. We destroy our own world by the way we live. When we use plastic waters drinking the water… It starts here, it’s small things in the world that destroy everything.”
Tom Angelripper remembers being a soldier during a nuclear attack drill back in the 80s: There was a big threat in these times because I was in the military at that time. I was in a camp with the Americans. I was in a camp with an atomic launcher that was called Nike weapon system that was with atomic warheads. Yeah, that was something I…that was the reason why I wrote the song Burst Command Till War. You get the “burst command” when you are the commander and get the command to push the button and the missles are going to the enemy’s camp.”
After that we discussed numerous topics such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Vietnam Rock music, Persecution Mania album cover, “Bombenhagel”, West Berlin, etc. We also discussed metal scene in the Eastern Bloc along with Sodom playing at exotic places such as Tasmania. We also had a chat about the song “Remember the Fallen” and then, we shifted our discussion to Agent Orange.
When asked how he discovered Agent Orange, Tom explained: I got some magazines. There was a magazine out in Germany in these times called Namm. That was collector’s magazine, which came out every month. And there was a big article about Agent Orange. And there was also idea for the cover. If you take the Agent Orange cover, in original, it’s a photograph. Somebody posted it on the internet (later). And Andreas Marschall did a re-paint of this cover. And there was a big special magazine about Agent Orange. Yes, then I talked to Witchhunter and said: Agent Orange, it’s a good title! What is it? Please read this magazine, you’ll know what it is. You never get information from TV, there was not much documentaries in these times. But if you are reading books or get the special magazines, you get all the information you need. And then, the first Vietnam war movie Deer Hunter came out it was also talking about Agent Orange. I saw Agent Orange attacks, or Apocalypse Now…
He then explained the opening lines of the song Agent Orange – “Operation Ranch Hand” – the use of chemical warfare agents in Vietnam, started by Kennedy in 1962: “Yeah, with Operation Ranch Hand everything started in this war. And from that time, everything was getting out of control...Legalise the war. Everything they did is legal. There was no convention. Whatever you do, to kill the enemy, is legal...You cannot legalize the war but at these times they talk about. There was kind of psychological warfare: you have to kill the enemy, everything you do is legal, you can do it...You don’t get any problems after that. Vietnam war was something really special. Completely different to all the others.”
After that, we talked about Sodom going to Vietnam in 2002: “That was really crazy. Yeah, we planned to do a live show in Vietnam, in Saigon. And we found a music promoter. He was writing for a music magazine. He said: there was never a metal band who played here from Germany or America. And we got a contact to a club called Apocalypse Now. And yeah, they said a lot of local bands are gonna play. The metal scene was completely forbidden, but other traditional bands are gonna play there. And then we got in contact to all the promoters and he got a contact with some politics. And then they came up to cancel this because we were too much “pro-American”. They read the lyrics, yeah. You know there we were talking to Vietnam veterans. There is a lot of pictures. We wanted to get more information. We want to be there, you know. To find the spirit of this war. And they canceled. We are pro-American. There is a song on this M-16 album called “Marines”. You glorify this war. You glorify the Americans! No! We don’t! You can’t discuss it so there’s no way that we gonna. We wanted to record live album there. We needed more technics there, good backline…That was impossible, but we tried.”
He then talked about his Vietnam experience: “I saw the pictures...but talking to the Vietnam veterans, that was very interesting. Because, I heard their stories. There was, there is no big aggression against small soldiers. There was aggression against the politics. Not against a single soldier fighting against them. There was one that told me that he was shot by an American soldier. He got some bullet holes in his body. And later, after the war, he met him again. And they talked: I got an order to kill you. I tried to kill you. That was not my decision, that was not my opinion to kill somebody. The small stories behind it...That is very interesting. Then, when we came back home I started writing the lyrics...But we couldn’t play there. That was my dream, you know…doing a small gig for the metal scene. Because in first line, we are musicians, we want to play…We tried, but we did some photo sessions there, we took some photos. We had a photographer. He was from Metal Hammer, Manfred Eisbletter…He is really famous here in Germany, who joined us on the trip…It was really fun, you know…”
Right after, we discussed some Vietnam-era rock music, and then shifted to the meaning behind Expurse of Sodomy and Persecution Mania. Then, Tom Angelripper explained the lyrics of “Magic Dragon”: “It’s about AC-47. That was a big bomber. And with this AC-47 they spread down all the bombs, even Agent Orange was sprayed. It was a big transport airplane who gets all this stuff. AC-47 was the most famous airplane in this time used by the Americans. And the Americans said that the Magic Dragon was the name for this airplane.”
Then we talked about the 40-year-long history of the band, back in 1982. “That describes the revolution when we started. We were against our parents, teachers, establishment, politics. We just wanna have a good time with the band. Just making some noise in a rehearsal room. We never could imagine that we will become a proffesional band or that the band name exists after 40 years. That is what we are gonna describe in our new song.”
After a brief discussion of metal scenes in industral areas, Lemmy, bullet belts, the start of German thrash metal scene and his bass and vocal influences, Tom Angelripper explained the idea behind Decision Day album cover:
“I just talked to Joe Petagno. He is a god. He is the godfather of artists, artworks. And I talked about, I am gonna send him a couple of lyrics and also send some pre-production. And he started painting it. I said, Knarrenheinz, being at the center. And it’s a scene from Sodom and Gommorah, when the Sodom and Gommorah were burned down by god. It is not real, it is just a fantasy. And Genesis XIX, it’s a part from the Bible. I talked to Joe. I said Joe: God destroyed Sodom and Gommorah, and Knarrenheinz is god. I need fire, I need this one, explosions, all this stuff. And he told me: I know exactly what you want. And then I heard nothing from him for weeks or months. And one day, I remember getting a PDF file, it was an original, big file...It was getting in my computer...Here it is! That’s the cover. I liked it. Sometimes, the artist doesn’t want to discuss about doing this or doing that. He needed some information about…He needs a way, a direction to go. And then I let him go and he was gonna do the cover…”
He also described the previous idea for the Decision Day artwork:
The American flag and the Russian flag. My first idea was taking an AK-47 a gun, with the American flag in it. And the M-16 had the Russian flag. ‘Cause, it’s just the gun. It’s the Russian gun and it’s an American gun. I want to show that we are just men. We are just mankind. It doesn’t matter if you are Russian or American. So in the latest version of the Bombenhagel, we put Russian anthem in it, a small part of it, and also the American anthem. Because, American and Russia, the biggest governments. We are living in one world, that’s what I want to show to people. Yeah, the Decision Day cover is great!
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01:56 Fourty Years at War
03:31 new album? Lords of Depravity Part III?
05:39 Big Teutonic Four
8:48 Frank Blackfire the new lineup, and Chris Witchhunter
13:36 Knarrenheinz mascot
17:03 Nuclear Winter
29:43 Hippies, Vietnam Rock and Thrash metal
30:38 Persecution Mania album cover
34:25 West Berlin, Live in East Berlin...
36:37 Metal scene in the Eastern bloc (Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria) He also mentions that Sodom was the very first metal band to play in Bulgaria, along with Mexico and even Tasmania! Priceless!
40:15 Remember the Fallen – Stop der Scheise krieg in Yugoslavien! Code Red
42:18 Agent Orange
46:18 Sodom in Vietnam
48:25 Heavy metal banned in Vietnam?
49:24 The Vietnam experience
53:47 Creedance Clearwater Revival? Vietnam-era Rock?
57:12 Expurse of Sodomy and Persecution Mania title meaning
59:33 Magic Dragon lyrics
01:00:19 40 years of Sodom
01:02:47 Metal scenes in industrial areas
01:05:18 Bullet belts, Lemmy...
01:07:44 The start of German thrash metal scene
01:10:13 Bass and vocal influences
O1:12:53 Decision Day album cover
01:20:09 Picking style
01:20:51 5 favorite albums?
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